Aero experts helping UAMs take flight
Bryan Wood of Honeywell discusses how established aerospace industry leaders and an array of exciting startups will be critical in getting the UAM and eVTOL markets off the ground.
The idea of flying cars and small aircraft zooming around cities without a human pilot at the controls scares a lot of people. As much as everyone would love to have an affordable way to hop from Midtown Manhattan to Queens in 10 minutes, there’s still a big mental hurdle many must overcome before they truly embrace a future that includes autonomous UAM (urban air mobility).
But here’s the thing: many of the companies who are leading the UAM revolution are the same ones that have made commercial airliners the safest method of travel. Companies like Honeywell are helping lead the charge, and using decades of aerospace experience to bring to market an array of new UAM-related technologies. In fact, technologies like the hybrid-electric turbogenerator for the UAM market might one day provide those quick, airborne trips around New York.
Meaningful partnerships between established aerospace industry leaders and the wide array of exciting startups in the space will be critical in getting the UAM market off the ground—both figuratively and literally. These partnerships will bring UAM and autonomous aircraft to market faster, and ensure they comply with all regulatory standards. At the same time, new technologies being developed now will also push the market forward.
Much of that new technology was on display in early June at the Uber Elevate Summit, and it will help UAM developers like Jaunt Air Mobility, Pipistrel, and Volocopter create safe and efficient electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft—but they can’t do it alone.
Aerospace companies that have been supplying the commercial airline sector for decades are well in the mix. They are perfectly suited to provide many of the technologies needed to power, steer, and ensure the safety of new airframes being developed for the UAM market.
For example, radar systems are being installed in prototype UAM aircraft to help them fly safely. Integrating lightweight software-based radar that can detect multiple obstacles in and around a flight path is a major step toward automating the takeoff and landing of UAM aircraft.
That radar technology is just one example of those from aerospace leaders that are being supplied to UAM and autonomous vehicle companies. New UAM airframes will also need things like actuators, fly-by-wire systems, propulsion, and connectivity systems that can be supplied by established aerospace companies.
But there’s more to creating successful partnerships than just supplying technology. As dense cities prepare to adopt UAM vehicles, the new aircraft will need to operate under the guidance of traditional aviation regulatory agencies. Developers of these new aircraft will benefit greatly from working with companies that have a strong understanding of the regulations and certification process of groups like the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and their international counterparts.
It’s going to take a huge amount of work from a vast amount of companies, regulators, and governments to create the UAM and autonomous future that we all hope for. But we’ll get there sooner if we work together.