In recent years, most of the avionics have evolved from older mechanical/analog systems to newer solid-state digital systems. Electronic Circuit Breakers (ECBs) are the next wave of technology to transform the cockpit.
Pilots have realized that the EFIS has many benefits over older steam gauges. Newer aircraft usually don’t have a vacuum pump and the avionics, trim, flaps, stall warning and a lot of other important components are now electrically powered. And as new features like runaway trim protection, flap controllers, landing light wig-wag modules, backup busses and dual alternators become more popular, wiring the aircraft has become very complex.
Vertical Power simplifies the electrical system by using electronic circuit breakers and microprocessors to remove the complexity and make wiring easier, yet provide many important features. And, you can install backup circuits to provide redundant power for critical avionics.
Vertical Power products are built using the latest technology to give you unprecedented functionality and safety features. Electronic circuit breakers give you a big advantage over older thermal breakers because they can do a lot more than just detect a circuit fault. ECBs are part of an integrated, microprocessor-controlled system that provides circuit protection, switching, and host of advanced and unique features.
Electronic circuit breakers, as part of a system, turn electrical devices on and off, manage contactors and alternators, run the trim and flap motors, handle short circuits, and watch for failed lights or other devices. About a hundred times per second, the ECBs monitor each power wire for faults and anomalies.
ECBs are a lot more “intelligent” than thermal breakers because they are controlled by a microprocessor and can be readily configured for each individual circuit. For example, you can set the circuit breaker value and whether or not to detect an open circuit right from the setup menus.
Each Electronic Circuit Breaker does the following:
Short circuit and over-current protection
Measures current draw through each circuit
Provides status to the microprocessor
Each switch is rated for two billion operations, and this type of switch is in wide-spread use in the automotive, transportation, and marine industries
The ECBs are housed in a metal Power Distribution Unit (PDU) which is mounted inside the cabin of the aircraft. The actual switching and circuit protection is done within the PDU. Any switches that you mount on your instrument panel don’t actually carry current but instead simply tell the PDU what to turn on and off. For example, you could have a Landing Light switch that is wired to an input on the PDU. When you turn on the Landing Light switch it grounds an input pin on the PDU, which then tells the system to turn on both of the landing lights.
The “intelligence” can be used to enable features without adding complexity. For example, if you want to wig-wag (pulse) your landing lights, traditional wiring methods require you to buy a separate module, wire it and add a switch for it. That adds additional failure points, weight, and complexity. With ECBs, you simply configure the two landing lights to pulse and the function is performed by the microprocessor within the PDU. No additional complexity, modules, or connectors are needed. And, the lights can automatically wig wag when in the air but remain steady on the ground. Again, this new feature adds no weight or complexity to the aircraft.
Vertical Power systems are protected by multiple US Patents.
The Vertical Power products are designed specifically to operate in an aircraft environment. That means they can take the voltage spikes, vibration, electronic noise, and temperature ranges found in a typical metal or composite experimental aircraft. Further, the products are designed so that if a failure does occur it is isolated and most likely will only affect a specific sub-system. In other words, it is designed to fail gracefully.
A typical mechanical circuit breaker has a mean time between failure (MTBF) of 17,000 hours. A single electronic circuit breaker has an MTBF of about 1,000,000 hours. Further, a mechanical switch is rated for about 30,000 cycles. Our ECBs are rated for 2 billion cycles. As you can see, modern solid-state components offer significantly higher reliability.
The following design points illustrate how these high-reliability goals have been implemented:
Certain items like the starter circuit are dual redundant. Dual power supplies and microprocessors in certain products provides the ability to fail gracefully while still powering multiple systems.
The power supply that controls the system’s digital avionics can operate from 4 volts – 32 volts, 40 volts for 1 second, and 60 volts for 100 milliseconds. This allows the system to operate normally during engine start and other events that cause voltage transients.
Data lines between Vertical Power components used to control devices are dual-redundant lines.
Each connector pin is protected from static electricity and high-voltage transients.
Special glue is used to support the larger components on the circuit board and protect them from vibration.
Built-in protection from failure of the position sensor power supply.
Only components designed to operate over a wide temperature range are used.
Compare the traditional panel and trim wiring scenarios with a solid-state implementation. The amount of wire used and the number of crimp connectors, mechanical switches, and mechanical relays goes way down.
|The Old Way…||The Vertical Power Way…|
|Trim Wiring||Panel Switches||Solid-State Control|
And the home-run type of architecture (wiring goes to a central point) used successfully in other industries and commercial aerospace makes troubleshooting much easier.
Top 10 Reasons to Use Electronic Circuit Breakers (ECBs)
|10.||Cleans up your panel.|
|09.||Open circuit detection alarms when you turn on a device and it does not draw any current. So you know, for instance, when your landing light burns out or your avionics fan is not operating correctly.|
|08.||You can monitor the current draw of each individual device, to assist with troubleshooting or if you’re just curious.|
|07.||You get the best of both worlds. ECBs are remotely mounted yet you can view their status and reset a fault from the EFIS screen.|
|06.||When a breaker pops or fuse blows, you may or may not know it. When an ECB trips, you get an alarm warning.|
|05.||Circuit breakers just pop, but ECBs can distinguish between a short circuit and an over-current fault. That’s important when you’re troubleshooting the problem.|
|04.||More features, yet easier wiring. Just wire from the “red box” (which houses the ECBs) to the device you are powering. Lots of features without the black boxes, relays, bus bars, diodes, etc.|
|03.||Reduces build time. Experienced builders have told us the using ECBs can cut wiring time in half.|
|02.||Eliminate dozens of failure points. Each crimp connector, circuit breaker, relay, and black box is a potential failure point. ECBs are rated at 2 billion cycles.|
|01.||If you’re installing a beautiful new EFIS or GPS, why power it with 80-year old technology?|
What’s Wrong With the Way We’ve Been Doing it For Decades?
Compare the cars made in the sixties with the cars made today, and you’ll notice significant improvements in features, reliability and safety. Ask yourself if digital electronics are more prevalent now in cockpits than they were just five years ago. If you’re building an all-electric aircraft with a modern glass panel, why should your electrical system be based on decades-old technology? With that in mind, we’ve put together a short table to compare the Old Way with the Vertical Power Way:
|The Old Way…||The Vertical Power Way…|
|User experience: 1965 automobile||User experience: modern luxury car|
|LCD representations of analog gauges||Intelligent display of relevant information in context|
|Hard to reach and read breakers||Clear display on screen|
|New functionality requires rewire/install new boxes||Software update provides new features|
|Multiple boxes for discrete functions||Functions integrated in same box via software|
|Switches, wires, circuit breakers||LCD screen, microprocessor, solid-state switches|
|Emergencies can overwhelm pilot||More information available to help diagnose problems|
|Functions limited to that provided with each box||Settings configurable via set-up menus|
|Time consuming to wire each discrete box and sensor||Run wires from Vertical Power to devices|
|Call multiple vendors for support||Vertical Power integrates many functions|
Below is a partial list of the products that Vertical Power integrates with.