What is Aerospace Actuation Systems and its Types?

Posted on May 12, 2021 James Hinds Aerospace

Aircraft are large vehicles with numerous heavy control surfaces and flight systems that are paramount to standard operations. To ensure proper control over the aircraft during flight, pilots must have a means of quickly activating and managing various airplane parts. With aircraft actuation systems, energy can be harnessed from mechanical sources to create linear or rotary motion for the means of operating landing gear, flaps, aircraft brakes, slats, and much more. While many early aircraft took advantage of cables, gears, and rods for mechanical actuation, new systems have come about over the years which are more streamlined and efficient. In this blog, we will discuss the various types of aircraft actuation systems that are commonly present in the aviation sector, allowing you to best understand their functionalities and design.

Mechanical actuation systems serve as the most basic type, and they are most commonly found in small and light aircraft for which aerodynamic forces are not excessive. With such aerospace actuators, pushrods, tension cables, counterweights, and pulleys are all employed for the means of transmitting force from the cockpit controls to the control surfaces themselves. If increased assistance is needed for actuation, flight control parts known as servo tabs may be implemented.

For many modern aircraft, hydraulic systems serve for the actuation of many control surfaces and equipment. With the hydraulic system, enclosed fluids are highly compressed to create a transferable force strong enough to drive heavy machinery and mechanical components. With the power provided by such aircraft actuation systems, hydraulics may be used to operate aircraft brakes, nose wheel steering equipment, landing gear, flaps and slats, thrust reversers, cargo doors, windshield wipers, and more. As liquids are nearly incompressible in nature, they can be used to transmit large amounts of force with ease to efficiently operate heavy and large airplane parts.

The pneumatic system is fairly similar to hydraulic system, though they utilize pressurized gases instead of liquids. Pneumatic actuation systems are common to experimental home built aircraft that may use pressurized gases for the gyroscopic vacuum system and tires. While pressure cannot be transferred through gases as easily as hydraulic fluids, they do have some benefits that can make them advantageous. As compared to hydraulics, the pneumatic system is much simpler and lighter. Additionally, pneumatic gases have less risk of combustion as the air itself will not burn easily.

Alongside the implementation of hydraulic and pneumatic components, electronics have also started to be implemented within aircraft actuation systems for the benefit of operations. With computerized electronics, autopilot control systems and electromechanical actuators can work together to increase aircraft performance and efficiency. An electromechanical actuator system also can increase control and reliability, furthering their benefit for various aircraft. As electromechanical actuators have become more advanced, they present advantages such as their compact and lightweight design, high precision, energy-efficiency, and low-maintenance requirements. With their various benefits, engineers are beginning to shift towards electromechanical aerospace actuators in lieu of hydraulics.

With the various types of actuation systems, the various control surfaces and equipment of the aircraft can be governed with ease. At ASAP AM Spares, we operate as a leading supplier of all types of aerospace actuation system components and other OEM aircraft parts. As the only independent distributor with a strict no China sourcing pledge, all of our offered components have been sourced from top global manufacturers that we trust and have undergone quality assurance testing, inspection, and cross-referencing prior to shipment. If you are facing an AOG requirement, speak to our representatives to learn about our ability to provide same-day shipping or deliver on select items. Get started on the purchasing process today and see how ASAP AM Spares can serve as your strategic sourcing partner for all your operational requirements.

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