PC Krause and Associates
West Lafayette, IN
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With support from the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Program, PC Krause and Associates (PCKA) has developed a system that could meet a wide range of small aircraft electrical power and propulsion system needs. The company was aiming for its new modular motor drive system to fill the gap between existing commercial equipment and custom solutions at a cost that is viable for most remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) platforms.

An electronic speed controller module developed by PCKA installed in a test fixture at the company’s Indiana headquarters. (Photo: PCKA)

RPA platform optimization and system integration often require a high degree of customization in both the motor controller software and hardware. Development programs often lack the appropriate technical expertise and/or funding required to develop a custom solution for each aircraft design. As a result, many platforms use commercial off-the-shelf equipment that is often limited in performance or larger than necessary.

Through its work with RPA developers, the Air Force recognized a need for a fully configurable modular motor control solution that provides power scalability with appropriate reliability, ruggedness, and weight/volume optimization not currently available in the marketplace. Under the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program, PCKA created a modular motor control solution that includes a main control module, a range of peripheral expansion modules, and a range of interchangeable power stage modules.

A key feature of the technology is its open hardware and software architecture, which enables users with minimal expertise to meet typical platform needs while providing advanced users the capability to rapidly customize portions of the system to meet sophisticated performance and control objectives. This also allows RPA developers to focus their resources on expanding mission systems and platform capabilities instead of motor controller design and optimization.

PCKA partnered with multiple RPA developers and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Aerospace Systems Directorate to clearly define what was needed to create a successful modular motor drive ecosystem. This provided the company an opportunity to develop the necessary base software and prototype hardware to demonstrate the system to initial customers.

As a result of the early-stage hardware demonstration, PCKA delivered production controllers for Lockheed Martin’s Maritime Canister Launch Small Unmanned Air System, an adaptation of the Vector Hawk platform. These first-run controllers have completed system integration and initial flight testing with further development and testing ongoing.

Additionally, PCKA is working with AFRL and Georgia-based Area-I to integrate and flight test PCKA’s modular motor drive in Area-I’s Prototype-Technology Evaluation Research Aircraft platform. PCKA also has been selected for additional SBIR funding to expand the range of modules available in the modular motor drive ecosystem, refine the base control software, and improve control algorithms for both RPA and other applications.

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