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Vicor develops DC-DC converter modules for airborne base stations in emergency communications

Written by Stephen Vicinanza

The Vicor DCM is an isolated DC-DC converter module replacing the bulkier Fukaden Power Control Box II, which was powering tethered communications drones in disaster areas. The Fukaden drones needed 1kW to 5kW of power. The voltage requirement needed to be increased from 24V to 370V, which allowed the tethered cable to go from 125g per meter to 11.1g per meter. A substantial reduction of 10x less weight on the drone and drain on the power supply.

The Vicor DCM replaced the heavier step-down DC-DC converter Fukaden had been using in their drones. The isolated converter module uses high-frequency zero-voltage switching (ZVS) technology. The DCM converter has high conversion efficiency and high output power density. The converter took up less than 75% of the space on the drone and reduced the overall weight by 50%.

The drones act as the eyes and ears of large ground regions after natural disasters and can communicate with emergency ground response units. The latest Fukaden drones require up to 9kW of power. By using a high voltage power of DC700V, with thinner cabling and upgrading to three bus converters in parallel, Fukaden could then scale power to 4.5kW. Using two power supply units in parallel, the power could be scaled to 9kW.

Modular DCM converters can be used independently or with downstream, point-of-load (PoL) products. This supports efficiency, greater power system performance, and connection to a variety of unregulated power sources at the PoL.

The DCM VIA module has greater functionality, with integrated EMI filtering and tight output voltage regulation, and a secondary-reference control interface.

The DCM and BCM are also opening doors to electric aircraft power. To optimize efficiency the power conversion and regulation are done in 2 stages. The power density and a simplified thermal management system are also addressed. This is done in two stages, with the bus converter module isolating and down-converting high voltage battery power, followed by the DCM low voltage DC-DC converter regulating the output of the bus converter to 28V.

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For the past 8 years, I have been writing about embedded technologies, added to my technical, academic, and medical editorial experience, with companies like Elsevier and Cambridge University Press. I tell people to read what I write, not try to pronounce my last name. I am always available for comments and suggestions you can reach me at product-editor@circuitcellar.com and I promise I will take the time to reach back out to you. I live in the North East with my wonderful family.

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Vicor develops DC-DC converter modules for airborne base stations…

by Stephen Vicinanza time to read: 1 min