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Development of high power density electrical actuators

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New actuator for helicopter

EU-funded scientists sought to eliminate as many hydraulic components as possible on helicopters by developing high-power density electromechanical actuators (EMAs).

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Recent advantages in high-performance materials, and miniaturised and highly efficient power electronics make EMAs increasingly competitive to its hydraulic counterpart regarding power-to-weight ratio. However, several issues need to be dealt with. Some of these are related to extreme operating and environmental conditions. The EU-funded project 'Development of high power density electrical actuators' (HP-SMART EMA) developed next-generation smart actuation systems for commercial aircraft and aero engines. These extremely light, efficient and reliable actuators are connected to the engine turbine control unit in a plug-and-play manner to incorporate flexibility and modularity. They are used to control the inlet flap position of a helicopter turboshaft as an alternative to current hydraulic actuators. Innovation of the smart electric actuator concept lay in treating mechanisms, electronic control systems, control software and power supply in an integrated way. Scientists designed highly reliable electronic architecture considering heavy vibrations and extreme conditions such as enormous temperature variations, combustion gas and resulting oxidation. In particular, they did not embed the electronics in the actuator, but placed them away from the most heated parts, together with other engine control systems. An intelligent control system with an optimised interface enabled connection even to the aircraft flight control in addition to the engine control unit. Failure analysis and safety assessment were applied at all stages of actuator development. The innovative high-power density electrical actuator developed by HP-SMART EMA will make a significant contribution to next-generation all-electric aircraft. Reduced engine bleed and system weight should increase performance while reducing fuel consumption, emissions and operating costs. This should provide important benefits for the aerospace industry and for the environment.


Helicopter, electromechanical actuator, high-performance material, power electronics, electrical actuator, commercial aircraft, aero engine, plug-and-play, turboshaft, hydraulic actuator, engine control system, all-electric aircraft

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