Drone Design

DN Staff

May 31, 2011

3 Min Read
Drone Design

Micro Systems' commandand control systems have been used with virtually every U.S. aerial targetdrone for the past decade. These systems control unmanned aerial vehicles thatuse both weapon test and evaluation for the training of military personnel.They simulate threats ranging from cruise missiles to supersonic aircraftflying at altitudes ranging from 7 to 40,000 ft.

Equipment designed to meetsuch high-performance requirements must meet stringent safety and reliabilityrequirements. As a result, Micro Systems is extremely selective when choosing component vendors to support itssystem development efforts.

"Micro Systems recentlyrecognized a need in the industry for a new, portable, low-cost system thatwould be easy to use and maintain," says Maynard Factor, Micro Systems'business development engineer. "As a portable command and control system, weknew this system would also have to be extremely durable if it was to live upto our standards as well as the standards of our customers."

Micro Systems developed thedesign of the new portable command and control system (known as PATS - PortableArea Target System) from its existing MOdular Networked TAarget controlEquipment (MONTAGE). MONTAGE is a field-proven design that has supported morethan 1,000 high-reliability missions worldwide.

Among the key challenges facedby engineers on this new design was the quality and durability of theindividual switching components PATS would require.

"For the command panel designwe looked at many different vendors of push-button and toggle switches, but italways came back to quality and lead time," Factor says. "We needed a supplierthat could provide switches that could function reliably and safely in adverseenvironmental conditions and also support an accelerated delivery schedule ofonly six months; a schedule that is almost unheard of in the industry."

Beyond principalconsiderations such as quality and lead time, Micro Systems needed the switchesto have gold contacts and feature a solder lug connection option. "Goldcontacts were a requirement due to the low electrical current that was availablein various measurement circuits used in the system," says David Ault, leadengineer on the PATS project. "The solder lug requirement was driven by costand manufacturability considerations."

Factor says NKK was able to provide Micro Systems' engineers withsample switches to aid them in their design and prototyping efforts. Thisallowed Micro Systems to ensure that they had the right solution before fullycommitting to a purchase.

"When developing a new commandpanel, it's always nice to be able to fabricate a functional prototype with thepotential system components before fully committing to one solution," Factorsays. "It's one thing to see specifications on a data sheet, but when it comesto cutting holes in metal as part of the manufacturing process, you want tomake sure that you've got all your ducks in a row."

The new command panel is asleek, ergonomic design using a lightweight, molded plastic enclosure andprecision joystick. The entire system can be broken down and stowed inruggedized transit cases for high mobility.

Mark Wuolle is marketing manager forNKK Switches.

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