Robotics/unmanned systems

Honeywell Bets on Drones

The aerospace giant is launching a new business unit to cash in on the autonomous aviation market. It will act as a systems integrator for all Honeywell products and services that could be used in this industry.

Drone flying in an urban area

Aerospace giant Honeywell International said Monday it has launched an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) business unit to leverage the growing market in autonomous aviation, which includes drones, air taxis, and unmanned cargo delivery vehicles.

Stéphane Fymat, head of the new business, said Honeywell expects the hardware and software market for urban air taxis, drone cargo delivery, and other drone businesses to reach $120 billion by 2030 and stated that Honeywell’s market opportunity would be approximately 20% of that amount. He declined to say how much of that market Honeywell was targeting, adding only that the unit has hundreds of employees with many engineers.

The coronavirus pandemic has created a surge of interest in drone deliveries, and Fymat said it’s accelerating the drone cargo delivery programs of some of Honeywell’s partners. Among these are Intel-backed Volocopter; Slovenia-based small aircraft maker Pipistrel, which is developing an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft for cargo delivery; and UK-based Vertical Aerospace, which has test-flown a prototype vehicle that can carry 250 kg and fly at 80 km/hour.

Honeywell doesn’t build drones itself but provides autonomous flight controls systems and aviation electronics and will develop new products and services uniquely required for these markets. It will also act as a systems integrator for all Honeywell products and services that could be used in this industry, including hybrid-electric propulsion and thermal management, flight services such as unmanned air traffic management, and ground operations services such as predictive aircraft maintenance analytics. The company’s corporate venture capital arm has also invested in Southern California’s AirMap, an unmanned air traffic control system for drones, and Switzerland-based Daedalean, which develops autonomous flight controls.