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App note: Designing reliable drones using proper circuit protection

App note: Designing reliable drones using proper circuit protection

Littelfuse’s application note on drone circuitry protection, offering guard against overcharging its batteries, I/O and ESD protection. Link here (PDF)

No doubt “pilot losing control” is behind many drone incidents and crashes. But what’s behind that “loss of control?” After all, even small recreational drones depend on a host of subsystems – GPS, receiver antennae, WiFi I/O ports and electronic speed controllers – to stay in the air. Lose one and that UAV becomes a UFO pretty quickly.

The number of consumer, professional, and commercial drones, sometimes called unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), sold annually has risen rapidly over the last few years. Future sales growth looks even more rapid, with the Federal Aviation Administration predicting that sales will grow from roughly 2.5 million this year to 7 million by 2020, with 4.3 million being sold to hobbyists and 2.7 million units being sold for professional and commercial applications. Non-military drones are available at a wide range of price points, anywhere from toys that cost less than $100 to sophisticated commercial drones for use in fields like aerial photography, public safety services, agriculture, and wildlife management that can cost thousands

Regardless of how a particular drone is used or how much it costs, all drones are susceptible to similar fault and failure conditions. These conditions can cause problems that range from the merely annoying (a drone that won’t start or take flight) to the catastrophic (a crash that causes major property damage or personal injury). A battery that catches fire during charging or a mid-flight failure due to any of a number of electrical issues are common examples that highlight why robust electrical protection is essential. Fortunately, a growing array of tools and techniques are available to implement passive battery safety systems, electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection, and stalled motor protection.