NASA engineers have completed tests on a device that opens the path for development of "all-electric" aircraft. Called the Electro-Hydrostatic Actuator, the device eliminates or minimizes airborne dependence on hydraulic, pneumatic, and mechanical systems. NASA tested the device on the left aileron of its F/A-18 Systems Research Aircraft without using the plane's central hydraulics. Taking its signals from the aircraft's flight-control computers, the device uses its electronics to trick aircraft computers into thinking a standard actuator is on board. Although the device contains a small amount of hydraulic fluid, it uses an electric motor to drive its pump. The force created moves the aileron. For many years, NASA, the Air Force, and the Navy have sought to eliminate heavy hydraulic systems in aircraft in favor of electrical "power-by-wire" systems for operating flight controls. The new device results from the Electrically Powered Actuation Design program of the Air Force.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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