How Cutting-Edge TVS Design Helps Drive the Ever-Growing Applications of Commercial Drones
Drones are revolutionizing the way we gather data and therefore the way we do business today. The reason? Their reach and operating costs are many times cheaper compared to conventional methods relying on manual labor or manned aircraft. In addition, drones make it possible to perform tasks that were once too dangerous to perform because they can now be operated remotely, avoiding risk to the operator.
The FAA projects that the number of these devices could reach 1.4 million by 2023 in the US alone. As drones continue to gain popularity, more ingenious ways of applying then are created with significant implications for business processes. Therefore, ensuring that these devices perform as expected is a priority.
Like all instruments that must be powered by electric circuits, there is a risk of power surges and voltage transients. The miniaturization of circuit components is a primary reason for the vulnerability. However, there are tools in place to overcome these challenges, namely, TVS diodes and other surge protection devices.
MDE Semiconductor, Inc. is at the forefront of innovation with a wide range of products to suit diverse needs. Our 30KP (30000 watt) series and MAX40 (40000 watt) series of TVS diodes offer exceptional surge protection capabilities with fast response times, less than 1.0 ps. In addition, we offer TVS design customization for unique applications that take into account weight and space limitations. Regardless of the category of drones to be designed, whether for the hobbyist or for serious industrial applications, MDE Semiconductor, Inc. will combine technical expertise with professional service.
Real-Life Examples of Drones Used Successfully
Below are some real-life applications of drones in recent times that have left a lasting impression. These add to the ever-growing body of proof that drones can make life easier and safer, and business more profitable.
In the aftermath of a natural disaster, reduced access to affected regions makes it necessary for rescue teams to decide on where rescue personnel and efforts should be diverted. Without data, these decisions can prove fatal to individuals still in harm’s way. Drones have made obtaining much-needed intelligence easier.
Take, for example, the incident of lava outbreak from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano in May 2018. The U.S. Geological Survey launched a drone to assess the affected northeastern parts of Leilani Estates where the lava was seen making its way to residences. Images from the drone identified a trapped man, and his position was relayed to search and rescue who successfully brought him to safety.
St. Louis-based Ameren Corp., an electric utility company has employed drones to carry out infrastructure surveillance which was previously performed by third-party inspection companies using helicopters. Or the labor-intensive, and sometimes dangerous, visual assessments done by personnel up a 200 ft. communication tower. By employing drone surveillance in-house, the company was able to save its resources. The speed with which they could gather data about site activities helped increase their efficiency and made the company more proactive about remedying any issues as they were discovered.
Similarly, scientific researchers can obtain real-time insights like never before. The Marine Mammal Institute of Oregon State University obtained rare aerial footage of blue whales feeding on krill which provided a new perspective on the mammal’s behavior. The data made evident that there was a relationship between the amount of energy the whales would expend and the nutritional benefits from the krill. Whales are very intelligent indeed.
Finally, consider the hive of retail activity that is Walmart, with its gigantic stores and high customer traffic. The company has employed a patented drone system to carry goods throughout the store to save time, effort, and labor costs. At the same time, the business improves its customer experience when they longer have to travel long distances across aisles to retrieve their items. Operators fly the drones overhead, in the spaces above shelves, to avoid bumping into customers.
These examples show you the various uses drones can be put to, but there are numerous other applications where unmanned aerial vehicles such as drones can be of help. The public has been very welcoming towards the technology, so we can look forward to a future where drones are used in a larger capacity.
Drone Components for Functionality
A drone has three main parts that provide its functionality. First, the solid outer body is designed aerodynamically and with a good center of gravity to withstand the elements and remain in the air. Available designs include fixed-wing drones and quad-copters with four to six rotors.
The second part is the payload it carries depending on its objective. Examples include high definition cameras, laser detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors, infrared sensors, gas sensors, and so much more.
The third part is its processing ability to translate the signal needed to maintain its flight path. It could also include the ability to process obtained data while in flight. Other drones will simply store the data for processing after it lands.
Regardless of the main objective of a drone, or its processing capabilities, an effective system for powering its various electronic components is necessary to communicate with the airborne device and keep it in the air.
What Can Go Wrong with a Drone?
For one, crashing and causing injury to people or destruction to property. A few such incidents have made it to the news. For example, in January 2015, a drone crashed into the White House lawn, which sent the executive mansion into lockdown. Or the issue that keeps the FAA awake at night, a drone that flies too close to manned aircraft like helicopters.
Some of these incidents are due to the pilot’s inexperience (although this should not happen as only licensed pilots are allowed to legally fly these instruments) or a pilot losing control due to unfriendly weather such as thunderstorms (also not advisable).
However, some incidents are due to faults developing in the drone, namely, power surges due to a blown fuse, short circuits, and even lightning strikes. They are also at the risk of electrostatic discharge (ESD) due to the accumulation of charges and the resulting discharge when the drone comes into contact with an object or person at a different potential compared to it.
The damage from these events could be immediate with onboard electronics rendered useless and needing replacement. Latent failure is more difficult to assess because while one or more components have developed a fault, the drone is able to fly, giving the impression that all is well. Then without warning, they make themselves known, taking more components down with them. Hence, comprehensive electrical protection is essential.
Considering the real-life examples of drones in action, reliability and performance of all components of the drone, including the electrical system are paramount. MDE Semiconductor, Inc. is in the business of manufacturing circuit protection devices to withstand demanding environments. Our products also satisfy strict performance standards that the most critical organizations such as the military require, where poor performance has far-reaching consequences.
Protecting Drone Electronics from Power Surges and ESDs
Drone makers should incorporate circuit protection to protect the various electrical subsystems from power surges and ESD that can lead to equipment failure. Below are the drone components that are at particular risk of these threats:
Flight controller: The drone’s motherboard which interprets input from the antennae, GPS, onboard sensors, and battery.
Antennae: Designers will want protection with the least amount of signal disruption.
Input / Output ports: Are at great risk for ESDs. In addition, ensuring signal integrity is paramount.
Global Positioning System: Found in more advanced drones and as expected, maintaining undisturbed connectivity is essential for correct navigation.
Thankfully, there are a number of tools available to choose from to provide surge and ESD protection with negligible interference with data signal strength or speed, Transient Voltage Suppressor (TVS) diodes are one such device.
TVS diodes are silicon avalanche devices that clamp the overvoltage protected circuits experience and route the associated current to the ground, all in a matter of nanoseconds. In addition to their fast response times, they are preferred in many instances for their low leakage current and low capacitance which ensures data signal integrity.
The size of a TVS diode is directly related to its surge protection capabilities. Other important parameters to consider when making a choice are maximum clamping voltage (VCmax), peak pulse current (IPP), and reverse standoff voltage (VR). TVS design configurations can be unidirectional (uni-polar) or bi-directional (bi-polar) in the circuit. TVS diode arrays are ideal for ESD protection in data lines. The selected TVS design for an application will not wear out as long as it is operated within specified limits.
MDE Semiconductor, Inc. Offers TVS Design Customization to Suit Your Protection Needs
MDE Semiconductor, Inc. offers a wide range of TVS diodes to ensure the stable operation and maximum reliability of a drone’s electronics by protecting against electrostatic discharge and transients. We are a full-line supplier, and we manufacture high volumes to satisfy large-scale production needs. Our 30KP (30000 watt) series and MAX40 (40000 watt) series of TVS diodes offer exceptional surge protection capabilities with low capacitance and excellent clamping abilities. Their fast response times, less than 1.0 ps, makes them attractive for multiple drone applications.
Also, working closely with our clients, we offer customization to the TVS design in response to the continued innovation in drone design and manufacturing. Our products meet the highest standards of protection against voltage surges and electrostatic discharges. Visit our website for more, at www.mdesemiconductor.com