The fun part of writing this blog is receiving news of hopeful aspirations and plans for a thriving future. Taja Boscarol, one of the founders of Pipistrel, shared such news this week. “It is my greatest pleasure and honor to announce that Pipistrel and Honeywell signed an MOU(Memo of Understanding) regarding collaboration on aircraft technologies for urban air mobility.”
The Slovenian/American joint venture headlined its press release, “PIPISTREL AND HONEYWELL COLLABORATE ON AIRCRAFT TECHNOLOGIES FOR URBAN AIR MOBILITY,” with the multi-faceted secondary headline, “Pipistrel and Honeywell combine aerospace expertise to address the technical, regulatory and business challenges of the emerging on-demand mobility market.”
eVTOL News lists over 140 electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft on its web site. Early in the 20th century, there were thousands of automobile manufacturers. Such high-end products with their attendant development and manufacturing costs can’t be maintained by all the competitors, especially when market winners survive by growing in efficiency and productivity to make desirable products at competitive prices.
Unfortunately for those companies which cannot meet the incredible demands of designing a viable aircraft, finding ways to manufacture it with the lowest parts count and most easily fabricated and assembled components, and then integrating the base assembly with communications and flight instrumentation, economic factors might doom even excellent products.
Companies increasingly need to affiliate with one another to bring products to market. Notice the number of production company names taking up the first moments of the next motion picture you see. Costs and risks that don’t correlate can make even an award-winning film a box-office flop. Car companies are sharing power trains because meeting international emissions standards is too expensive for even a major manufacturer to tackle itself.
Boeing has recently brought in Aurora Flight Dynamics, a successful firm in its own right, because diverting funds from it major commercial and military products to develop a new line of urban air mobility products would be a stretch – even for Boeing. For perhaps the same reasons, according their mutual press release, “Pipistrel and Honeywell (NYSE: HON) have signed a memorandum of understanding that will bring both companies together on the exploration and development of solutions for the urban air mobility market. As part of their collective effort, the companies will work together to integrate Honeywell avionics, navigation, flight control systems connectivity, and other beneficial products and services onto a future Pipistrel vertical takeoff and landing air vehicle to support fully autonomous operations in the future.”
We have had, up to now, only a plan view of the future Pipistrel VTOL, with scant detail otherwise. Watch this 2017 Uber Elevate video from about the 42-minute mark to the 53-minute mark for R&D chief Tine Tomazic’s address. He teases what the new announcement gives a bit more of a glimpse.
Pipistrel CEO Ivo Boscarol at the 2017 Elevate Summit gave a great history of Pipistrel, two years before allying with Honeywell.
He explains the rationale for the MOU. “This is the beginning of a long-term relationship to collectively pursue the future of urban air mobility, “Honeywell’s expertise in integrated avionics and flight control systems, systems integration, certification and manufacturing, combined with our capabilities in designing and developing advanced light aircraft, makes us the perfect pairing to advance the urban air mobility market. Pipistrel was chosen to be one of Uber’s vehicle development partners for their urban mobility solution, and our VTOL features next generation propulsion technology for achieving embedded lift. We have the concept which unlocks cost-attractive eVTOL opportunity by addressing efficiency and noise hurdles in vehicle lift, hover, and cruise stages of flight.”
Honeywell’s century of experience pioneering aircraft technologies “ has positioned Honeywell to effectively collaborate with Pipistrel on defining a future for the emerging urban air mobility space.”
Carl Esposito, president, Honeywell Electronic Solutions adds, “The urban air mobility market is a challenging space, but one that Honeywell is well positioned to support and grow. Companies looking to make breakthroughs in urban air mobility face a wide range of technical, safety, certification and business challenges that come with developing a new mode of travel in an already very dense air traffic environment. An understanding of the aerospace complexities and legacy of innovative technologies can make all the difference in addressing this emerging market. Pipistrel is a well-known leader in the light-aircraft space, and this is an excellent opportunity to support its vision of a future vertical takeoff and landing aircraft with our industry-leading avionics, flight control systems, and other potential products and services.”
Two leading companies banding together in a new and complex field should have a good chance at succeeding because of their combined expertise. Certainly their success will help determine what the future UAM market will look like.