Honeywell dedicates business unit to UAS, UAM

Departments - Up and Soaring

GA-ASI enhances MQ-9A automatic takeoff/landing; Flirtey granted patent for safe drone delivery; Embention, Sagetech partner on UAV transponders; Auterion, NXP to develop open software for UAS; ANSI publishes UAS Standardization Roadmap v 2.0.

August 19, 2020

Honeywell’s aerospace division has formed a new business unit for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and urban air mobility (UAM).

“UAM and UAS will play an increasing role in the future of aerospace, with potential applications in all-electric urban air taxi vehicles, hybrid-electric unmanned cargo drones, optionally piloted airplanes, delivery drones, and everything in between,” says Honeywell Aerospace President and CEO Mike Madsen. “Honeywell has already contributed many technological advancements to these markets and is well positioned to continue.”

Equipped with its own engineering and sales resources, the UAS business unit will develop unique products and services and act as a systems integrator for Honeywell products and services such as avionics, electric/hybrid-electric propulsion, thermal management, flight services such as unmanned air traffic management, and ground operations services such as predictive aircraft maintenance analytics. The business will serve as a single point of contact for UAS/UAM aircraft designers or operators with Honeywell.

This expands Honeywell’s portfolio of UAM solutions, with a focus on software for autopilot systems, detect-and-avoid aircraft traffic algorithms, and artificial intelligence (AI) to track landing zones.

Discussions are underway with customers pursuing unmanned flight operations, such as drone package delivery.

GA-ASI enhances MQ-9A automatic takeoff/landing

As part of the ongoing U.S. Air Force contract for MQ-9A Reaper modernization, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) demonstrated three expanded automatic takeoff and landing capability (ATLC) enhancements that increase MQ-9A operational flexibility:

  • MQ-9A enabled to divert to an alternate landing airfield in which no ground control station is present while under satellite communication (SATCOM) control
  • Expanded MQ-9A crosswind limits
  • Increased maximum landing weight for normal, emergency landings

“All three enhancements provide MQ-9A aircrews with increased runway options, as well as expanded weather tolerances that greatly improve mission flexibility, operational availability, and time on station. It will also lead to a substantial reduction in aircrew,” says GA-ASI President David R. Alexander.

Flirtey is pursuing a type certificate for its Eagle next-generation delivery drone.

Flirtey granted patent for safe drone delivery

Five years after Flirtey conducted the first drone delivery in the U.S., in Wise County, Virginia, it was granted a patent critical to safe drone delivery. U.S. Patent Number 10,703,494 describes safety-enhancing technologies such as landing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) safely in the event of failure by using a parachute and steering the drone toward a safe location. This is the third drone delivery safety patent the U.S. has issued to Flirtey in 2020.

Flirtey’s July 17, 2015 flight had Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval, making it the first official drone package delivery in this country. The drone used in the delivery is to go on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Embention, Sagetech partner on UAV transponders

Sagetech Avionics, a developer and manufacturer of miniature aviation transponders, is partnering with Embention, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) autopilots and components supplier, to offer certified situational awareness during UAV piloting.

Embention’s Veronte Autopilot and Sagetech Avionics’ XP or MX transponders with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) enable a UAV’s position to be tracked by other aircraft and air traffic control ground stations, ensuring safe integration of UAVs in congested airspace, over long-range, beyond line of sight, and at night.

Embention officials say Sagetech transponders comply with their Veronte Autopilot, a miniaturized, DO178C- and DO254-compliant avionics system that controls unmanned systems to prevent a UAV from entering restricted airspace or collisions with other aircraft.

Auterion, NXP to develop open software for UAS

NXP Semiconductors and Auterion, a software provider for commercial and government drones, are developing integrated hardware and software solutions for unmanned aerial systems (UAS), based on open-source PX4 technology.

The parties will collaborate on core components of autonomous UAS operations, addressing safety, security, and regulations.

NXP offers certifiable electronics, computational horsepower, secure elements for encryption and authentication, and high-reliability networking. Auterion, the largest contributor to PX4, is offering the hardware reference design and Auterion Enterprise PX4 – the UAS flight controller software and the mission computer. The aim is to ensure manufacturers have a streamlined path to certification through existing drone architectures and workflows.

Auterion co-founder and CEO Lorenz Meier says, “Together, we will be able to provide integrated hardware and software solutions to the drone industry that combine high-performance computing with safety-first engineering.” 

ANSI publishes UAS Standardization Roadmap v 2.0

American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI’s) Standardization Roadmap for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Version 2.0 was developed by ANSI’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Standardization Collaborative (UASSC), a group coordinating and accelerating development of standards and conformity assessment programs to facilitate safe integration of UAS into the U.S. national airspace system. More than 400 individuals from 250 public and private organizations supported the document’s development, including representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), other U.S. federal government agencies, standards developing organizations (SDOs), industry, and academia.

The updated roadmap is the culmination of UASSC’s work to identify existing standards and standards in development, assess gaps, and make recommendations for priority areas where there’s a need for additional standardization including pre-standardization research and development (R&D). Issues are addressed under the broad headings:

  • Airworthiness
  • Flight operations
  • Personnel training, qualifications, certification
  • Infrastructure inspections
  • Environmental applications
  • Commercial services
  • Workplace safety
  • Public safety operations

The document also includes brief overviews of the UAS activities of the FAA, other U.S. federal government agencies, SDOs, and various industry groups.

The roadmap aims to support UAS market growth, emphasizing civil, commercial, and public safety applications. While the UASSC doesn’t develop standards, its recommendations should be widely adopted by the standards community.

The update identifies 71 issues without published standards or specifications. Each gap includes a corresponding recommendation for action and priority. New gap analysis sections include:

  • Blockchain for UAS
  • Design, operation of UAS aerodromes
  • UAS service suppliers process, quality
  • Commercial UAS cargo transport
  • Commercial UAS passenger air taxi/transport
  • Commercial sensing services
  • Data formatting standards for UAS public safety operations