Ever been on an airplane when the engines suddenly throttle up seemingly for no reason? It's probably because the pilot just switched from auto pilot (AP) back to manual control by disconnecting the AP and bringing the throttle levers back into the correct position. With SKF's new Automatic Throttle Control Unit, due out in two new planes in the coming months, that will no longer be an issue. "In older designs, the levers remained in a fixed position under auto pilot mode, so they were in the wrong place when the pilot resumed control. Further, the torque of the servo motors driving the levers was transmitted through a clutch, which made it very difficult for the pilot to override the automatic throttle without disconnecting it formally," says Product Manager Michel Giacomoni. "With our new system, the levers are driven by auto pilot and the pilot can override the AT through a force feedback system." Giacomoni notes that the force feedback comes from the corrective action of the AP computer, a modular avionic unit that gives the pilot feedback that the AT is engaged and that it is working correctly. Two new competitive aircraft will be the first to employ the system—the Gulfstream G200 (certified on July 2, 2004) and the Falcon 2000EX EASy, which is certified for delivery.
California State University, Chico was the first school in California to offer an ABET-accredited degree program in mechatronic engineering. Now its California Mechatronics Center works with industry on machinery, robotics, and surveillance vehicles.
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