Honeywell testing high-power generator for hybrid electric aircraft

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Honeywell is developing a 1MW generator suitable for use in hybrid-electric aircraft that is two and a half times more powerful than the previous version developed in 2019 that will be demonstrated later this year.

The turbogenerator is a combination of a  Honeywell 1MW generator and HGT1700 auxiliary power unit, which is currently flown on every Airbus A350 XWB. The 280 lbs (127kg) power unit will be able to run on biofuel, jet fuel and diesel and is designed to provide power to high-power electric motors or batteries in heavy-lift cargo drones, air taxis and commuter aircraft.

Honeywell said the first demonstration of the new turbogenerator system will occur by September this year, with qualification to follow.

Stephane Fymat, vice president and general manager for unmanned aerial systems and urban air mobility at Honeywell Aerospace said, “There is an inherent need for electric and hybrid-electric power as the urban air mobility segment takes shape and unmanned aerial vehicles enter service. Our turbogenerators provide a safe, lightweight package to serve these burgeoning segments, and we’re designing our solutions to meet the unique needs of customers developing aerial vehicles of the future.”

Honeywell sees the development of the turbogenerator as a response to the increased use of distributed electric propulsion in aircraft designs such as eVTOLs. In such designs multiple electric motors around an aircraft are used with fans for take-off and then either switched off or tilted for horizontal flight.

Taylor Alberstadt, senior director of Power Systems Business Development at Honeywell Aerospace said, “Our unrivaled legacy in the manufacturing of auxiliary power units and larger gas turbine engines gives us the ability to create power systems for future vehicles. We think the future of aviation will include many new types of propulsion and power systems, and we are prepared to lead the way in their development.”

In December, Honeywell signed a memorandum of understanding with British startup Faradair Aerospace to collaborate on systems and a turbogeneration unit that will run on sustainable aviation fuel to power Faradair’s Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft (BEHA). Faradair intends to deliver 300 hybrid-electric BEHAs into service by 2030, of which 150 will be in a firefighting configuration. Honeywell is in advanced discussions with several other potential turbogenerator customers, working to help define power requirements based on mission profiles required by various manufacturers.

Honeywell unveiled its first turbogenerator for urban air mobility (UAM) at the 2019 HAI HELI-EXPO in Atlanta. It combined Honeywell’s HTS900 turboshaft engine with two 200-kilowatt generators.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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