Longer Flight times Now Possible with New Texas Instruments Reference Design

Dallas semiconductor manufacturer, Texas Instruments, has revealed designs which should enable manufacturers to improve the battery life of commercial and industrial drones – a major concern for applications such as delivery and remote assistance.

A study carried out by London information gathering company, IHS Markit, showed that half of all drones have a battery life of less than half an hour, whereas 35 percent can last up to an hour, with only 15 percent able to continue for longer. Furthermore, these times should be expected to be negatively impacted by any payload required to be carried by the drone.

IHS Markit’s senior analyst of data transmission & managed services, Stelios Kotkasis, believes that improvements in battery life are extremely important for the market. According to Kotkasis:

Flight time continues to be a top design challenge for recreational quadcopters and professional drones, especially those being used by companies for beyond visual line-of-sight operation. Delivery companies want drone with enhanced battery life, and are testing delivery of parcels with drones to see how far they can go.

Texas Instruments’ announcement may herald the breakthrough that designers have been looking for. Its 2S1P Battery Management System reference design can be used by designers to improve a drone’s overall flight time, along with battery charging and protection, plus additional balancing. It uses a diagnostic recorder which monitors a drone’s Li-Ion battery on a permanent basis. This, along with a high efficiency DC/DC converter and a multi-cell gas gauge, it is hoped, will lead to the design of a generation of more stable drones which can fly for longer and further.

The Dallas company’s revelations didn’t stop there, however. A further design reference for electronic speed controllers shows how designers will be able to realize smoother and more stable performance of drones, by improving propeller efficiency. Not only that, the company’s Sensorless High-Speed Field Oriented Control Reference Design for Drone Electronic Speed Control will help improve efficiency at very high speeds of over 12,000rpm, including high-speed reversal capability for improved rolling.

The designs makes use of Texas Instruments’ FAST field observer proprietary software algorithm, which is used to estimate the torque, angle, flux and speed of the rotor. This algorithm is self-tuning and doesn’t require any operational adjustments. Furthermore, the design also includes a DC/DC converter which has an ultra-low quiescent current to improve the efficiency of LiPo batteries.

As designers react to the design reference, it shouldn’t be long until we see marked improvements on the findings of IHS Markit.

Andrew Maxwell

Andrew is a former journalist who now works as a freelance writer specializing in tech and gadgets. He currently resides in Thailand.

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