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Honeywell-led project to bring autonomous flight to Europe

Honeywell has launched “project OperA”, one of the two Honeywell-led projects to be awarded through the latest round of funding from the European Union’s SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking. The work will take place at Honeywell’s international development center in Brno, Czech Republic.

Project OperA (Operate Anywhere) will develop and validate several solutions for the safe accommodation of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) vehicles in flight.

The project will build solutions for complex operations of AAM-piloted air taxi and uncrewed cargo in real-life air traffic control conditions in Europe.

It will specifically address air-ground integration and the critical transition from piloted flights toward automated flights. It will use several key autonomy-enabling technologies, and will help optimize flight routing for minimum noise footprint and aircraft energy utilization.

Dave Shilliday, vice president and general manager, urban air mobility and Unmanned Aerial Systems, Honeywell Aerospace, says: “At Honeywell, we believe that aviation autonomy and automation are key to scaled and safe advanced mobility operations.

“Moreover, the path to autonomy will also produce a long list of improvements for existing operations, ranging from reduced- and single-crew operations to energy-optimized flight planning.”

Honeywell will focus on an energy-efficient approach, utilizing a ground control station, precision navigation solutions, and airborne detect-and-avoid technology. These technologies will play a vital role in the ecosystem of crewed air taxi and uncrewed cargo cross-border operations.

Jolana Dvorska, senior research and development manager and architect for SESAR, Honeywell Aerospace, says: “We are proud to work with consortium members on SESAR projects that enable the advancement and adoption of urban air mobility aircraft in airspace across Europe and beyond.

“By focusing on an energy-efficient approach, ground control station, airborne autonomy decision engine, including contingency management, detect-and-avoid, and navigation, Honeywell aims to bring higher levels of automation in aviation.”

Project OperA involves 15 partners from 11 European countries and is expected to be completed in 2026. The consortium will work closely with Pipistrel Vertical Solutions, Vertical Aerospace and Lilium, leading AAM OEMs, to validate technologies on uncrewed and crewed AAM vehicles.

Consortium partners represent the ecosystem for urban air mobility aircraft: from regulators (Eurocontrol), air navigation service providers (Latvijas gaisa satiksme, Oro Navigacija, ENAIRE and its R&D subsidiary CRIDA), operators (Nordic Unmanned), Vertiport operators (Skyports, Aena) to ground and industry members (Frequentis, Honeywell).

The SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking is an institutionalized European partnership between private and public sector partners co-funded by the European Union to accelerate the delivery of the Digital European Sky through research and innovation.

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