Micro Systems' command
and control systems have been used with virtually every U.S. aerial target
drone for the past decade. These systems control unmanned aerial vehicles that
use both weapon test and evaluation for the training of military personnel.
They simulate threats ranging from cruise missiles to supersonic aircraft
flying at altitudes ranging from 7 to 40,000 ft.
Equipment designed to meet
such high-performance requirements must meet stringent safety and reliability
requirements. As a result, Micro Systems
is extremely selective when choosing component vendors to support its
system development efforts.
"Micro Systems recently
recognized a need in the industry for a new, portable, low-cost system that
would be easy to use and maintain," says Maynard Factor, Micro Systems'
business development engineer. "As a portable command and control system, we
knew this system would also have to be extremely durable if it was to live up
to our standards as well as the standards of our customers."
Micro Systems developed the
design of the new portable command and control system (known as PATS - Portable
Area Target System) from its existing MOdular Networked TAarget control
Equipment (MONTAGE). MONTAGE is a field-proven design that has supported more
than 1,000 high-reliability missions worldwide.
Among the key challenges faced
by engineers on this new design was the quality and durability of the
individual switching components PATS would require.
"For the command panel design
we looked at many different vendors of push-button and toggle switches, but it
always came back to quality and lead time," Factor says. "We needed a supplier
that could provide switches that could function reliably and safely in adverse
environmental conditions and also support an accelerated delivery schedule of
only six months; a schedule that is almost unheard of in the industry."
considerations such as quality and lead time, Micro Systems needed the switches
to have gold contacts and feature a solder lug connection option. "Gold
contacts were a requirement due to the low electrical current that was available
in various measurement circuits used in the system," says David Ault, lead
engineer on the PATS project. "The solder lug requirement was driven by cost
and manufacturability considerations."
Factor says NKK
was able to provide Micro Systems' engineers with
sample switches to aid them in their design and prototyping efforts. This
allowed Micro Systems to ensure that they had the right solution before fully
committing to a purchase.
"When developing a new command
panel, it's always nice to be able to fabricate a functional prototype with the
potential system components before fully committing to one solution," Factor
says. "It's one thing to see specifications on a data sheet, but when it comes
to cutting holes in metal as part of the manufacturing process, you want to
make sure that you've got all your ducks in a row."
The new command panel is a
sleek, ergonomic design using a lightweight, molded plastic enclosure and
precision joystick. The entire system can be broken down and stowed in
ruggedized transit cases for high mobility.
Mark Wuolle is marketing manager for