Biofuel Turbogenerator for Hybrid-Electric UAS Under Development

By Mike Ball / 08 Mar 2021

Honeywell 1MW turbogeneratorHoneywell is developing a power source for hybrid-electric aircraft such as heavy-lift drones and urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles that will be able to run on aviation biofuel as well as conventional jet fuel and diesel. The one-megawatt generator, weighing 280 pounds, delivers enough energy to power an entire neighborhood block, and will be combined with the Honeywell HGT1700 auxiliary power unit, currently flown on every Airbus A350 XWB.

Traditionally, aircraft use fuel-burning engines to mechanically turn rotors, propellers or fans. Many new designs, however, use a distributed electric propulsion architecture, in which many electric motors can be tilted or turned off for vertical takeoff and horizontal flight. Honeywell’s turbogenerator can be used to operate multiple high-power electric motors or to charge batteries, and will be able to power a wide range of applications including heavy-lift cargo drones, air taxis, and commuter aircraft.

Honeywell has 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 also in advanced discussions with several other potential turbogenerator customers, working to help define power requirements based on mission profiles required by various manufacturers.

Honeywell’s first turbogenerator for urban air mobility (UAM) combined the company’s HTS900 turboshaft engine with two 200-kilowatt generators, and was unveiled at the 2019 HAI HELI-EXPO in Atlanta Since then, the company has continued to grow its role in the UAM segment, highlighted by advancements in electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems.

Stephane Fymat, vice president and general manager for Unmanned Aerial Systems and Urban Air Mobility at Honeywell Aerospace, commented: “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.”

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

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact