Swiss startup Daedalean, a developer of software for autonomous flight control, vision-based navigation, terrain guidance and landing, and Honeywell, a Fortune 100 technology company, have entered into a technological and financial partnership. They will cooperate towards the development of a fully autonomous artificial intelligence (AI) pilot for General Aviation (GA) and Urban Air Mobility (UAM).
The two companies will engage in joint testing and technological partnership to develop solutions for autonomous takeoff, landing and GPS-independent navigation and collision avoidance for GA aircraft and electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOL). Additionally, Honeywell Ventures has joined the Swiss startup’s pool of investors, the amount and conditions undisclosed.
Air traffic congestions, especially over urban areas, will soon become a pressing problem, as more than 100 companies are bringing small, mostly electric VTOL aircraft (“flying cars”) through certification and to market. Replacing the human in the loop with modern robotic systems will become a crucial enabler for whole new markets in aviation and urban transport.
Honeywell has already designed a compact new inertial navigation system. It is not known what Honeywell unit will be part of the new GA/UAM system, but, for example, the company’s HGuide n580 is an industrial-focused navigation solution that uses both precision inertial measurement unit technology and GNSS. It is about the size of a paperback book.
Daedalean has expertise in robotics, computer vision and machine learning. The company believes its innovations will bring benefits well before full autonomy in the cockpit becomes a reality, with the potential to enhance classical flight deck instruments including collision avoidance systems, flight directors and autopilots. The systems able to process visual images, similar to human-like situational awareness, can simplify pilot operations greatly and thereby free up the pilot’s attention for safety-critical oversight.
“Developing flight control software requires lots of flight data,” noted Luuk van Dijk, founder and CEO of Daedalean. “That’s why the collaboration with prominent industry partners such as Honeywell is critical for us to speed up the development of our technology. We are preparing for the joint flights testing our solutions for various types of aircraft, and excited to carry out trials on the planes we haven’t tried before.”