From calculators to drones: Texas Instruments makes sUAV battery

By Luke Geiver | January 19, 2017

A technology manufacturer well-known for its popular handheld calculators has created a new offering designed to help drone flights last longer and fly smoother. Texas Instruments has released two circuit-based systems that it said “will help manufacturers add flight time and extended battery life to quadcopters and other non-military consumer and industrial drones used to deliver packages, provide surveillance or communicate and assist at long distances.”

Long-recognized as one of the challenges in deploying small unmanned aircraft vehicles designed with a vertical take-off-and-landing orientation powered by rotors and an electric battery, flight times could be increased through TI’s battery management system. Most off-the-shelf consumer drones used in commercial operations such as aerial photography have a flight time limitation of roughly 30 minutes depending on flight conditions and payload weight. A drone’s battery pack can be transformed, TI said, into a smart diagnostic black box recorder capable of monitoring and maintaining a lithium ion battery. “Designers can use the drone battery management reference design to add gauging, protection, balancing and charging capabilities to any existing drone design and improve flight time,” TI said.

Maintaining and monitoring the status of a Li-Ion battery is not the only system capable of improving drone flight that TI has developed and now released. The way a drone’s propellers turn, including the rate of turn and power used for motion, can impact the efficiency of a flight path. Through its electronic speed controller, TI said it can offer a smoother and more stable flight. A sensorless high-speed field oriented control reference design for drone electronic speed control helps systems achieve better flight efficiencies at speeds more than 12,000 rpm, including, IT said, fast-speed reversal needed for stable roll movements.

Included in the motor controls is a microcontroller along with an algorithm that estimates rotor flux, angle, speed and torque. The data is used to tune the electricity necessary to control the motors. And, according to TI, the algorithm software system is already self-tuned and does not require adjustments for propeller control once installed.