Honeywell Awarded Lead Role In AI-Based Single-Pilot Research


Earlier this month, Honeywell announced it is leading the DARWIN project under the European Union SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking. The goal of DARWIN (a painfully stretched acronym for “Digital Assistants for Reducing Workload and Increasing … collaboration”) is “to leverage artificial intelligence [AI] and advance single-pilot operations in Europe.” The research is designed to develop a human-AI system that will define “clear roles and responsibilities, with human pilots remaining the ultimate decision-makers.”

Honeywell acknowledges that the challenges facing DARWIN include keeping the cockpit workload low enough that one human pilot can cope with even the most demanding scenarios, as well as the AI element of the crew needing to serve as a second set of “eyes” to cross-check the human pilot’s actions. Finally, the DARWIN system will have to be sufficiently proficient to “detect and mitigate” possible incapacitation on the part of the sole human pilot on board.

Jolana Dvorska, Honeywell Aerospace senior research and development manager and architect for SESAR (Single European Sky A[ir traffic management] Research), said, “A need for higher autonomy requires digital transformation. For both, we need to build trust in AI-based solutions. DARWIN will develop a scalable human-AI collaboration concept that can gradually introduce new functions and pilot assistants, in line with the EASA AI Roadmap.” Andrew Barker, Honeywell’s VP of integrated avionics, added, “This project lays a solid foundation for the future of AI and AI-human collaboration in Honeywell avionics. We must focus our efforts in these areas to ensure proper baselines are established for the future of minimum crew operations.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. YARS (RIP) would have commented, “Autonomy refers to the ability of a system or entity to operate independently and make decisions without direct human control or intervention. It implies self-governance, self-sufficiency, or the capability to function without external guidance.”
    The acronym DARWIN, although unforgetable, is also perplexing as the mind goes off to the Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Good contraction.

  2. For all you punsters out there, it is not a coincidence that I chose the word “Awarded” to use in the headline.

  3. So….. how well does it work after a lightning strike? Electrical problem? Sensor failure? GPS outages?
    The real world is analog.