Frequently Asked Questions of Aircraft Actuation
A machine’s actuator is the part in charge of moving and controlling a mechanism or system. In simple terms, it is a “mover”. Flight control surfaces like the elevator, rudder, ailerons, flaps, slats, and spoilers are adjusted by actuators on aircraft. They also extend and retract the landing gear, position engine inlet guide vanes and thrust reversers, and open and close cargo or weapon bay doors.
The control signal has a low energy level and can be produced by an electrical voltage or current, pneumatic or hydraulic fluid pressure, or even by work done by a human. Electric current, hydraulic pressure, or pneumatic pressure are all potential sources of power for it. Typically, the control device is a valve. An actuator adapts to a control signal by transforming the power of the source into mechanical movement thus transforming it into kinetic energy. It is a type of automation or automatic control in the electric, hydraulic, and pneumatic senses.
Major factors driving the growth of the market
The aircraft component market is poised to grow rapidly owing to the increased demand for aircraft fleets across the global markets. It is noted that several airline operators have been trying to boost their existing fleet to meet the passenger demand. For instance, statistics suggest that roughly 7,000 aircraft are on Airbus’ backlog and a little over 5,000 on Boeing’s. Hence the potential market for aircraft actuation systems is poised to increase owing to the rampant increase in the number of orders.
The increase in the number of aircraft orders is a direct result of the increase in RPK as well as CTK for aircraft across the global markets. This value is increasing owing to the gradual reopening of the global markets post-pandemic. However, the airline sector is anticipated to take a hit owing to the war-like situation brewing between Russia and Ukraine which is poised to increase the prices of jet fuel and hence the travel fee per passenger. The growing inflation within the global markets is another factor that is poised to serve as a key market restraint.
In terms of aircraft technology, the rise in the proliferation of electric aircraft and the growth in green technology is hereby anticipated to drive the growth associated with the aircraft actuation systems market. This growth is attributed to the increased research within this domain.
Trends influencing the growth of the market
The source control signals and power for actuators aboard aircraft have changed during the past few decades. Actuation technology evolved throughout time from manually operated sources like cables and rods to hydraulically and electrically powered options. Hydromechanical systems marked the shift in market trends from mechanical to automated systems. In this technology it was noted that the motion of a control column or lever was mechanically transmitted to activate control valves in the hydraulic circuit, filling and emptying cylinders to produce actuator action.
Later, electronic connections were used in place of mechanical linkages in fly-by-wire systems. In a fly-by-wire system, the flight computer interprets the pilot’s control column movements and transmits electrical signals to actuator control electronics. Electric motors are used to move electromechanical actuators, and hydraulic control valves are used to move hydraulic actuators, according to instructions from the control electronics. Fly-by-wire technologies allowed makers of aircraft to use more electrically driven actuators, such as electro hydrostatic actuators and electromechanical actuators, in aviation systems. Electricity generated by engine-driven generators and transmitted by power-by-wire systems powers these actuators.
The change in overall market dynamics is brought about by the aerospace sector’s movement to more electric aircraft with a long-term goal of all-electric aircraft. To improve airplane performance, save maintenance and operating costs, boost fuel efficiency, and cut emissions. These objectives are to be attained by converting mechanical, pneumatic, and hydraulic systems to electric systems.
The inclusion of new technologies within the actuators domain is poised to drive the growth associated with this market, electromagnetic actuators are one such technology. Electrical energy is transformed into mechanical energy by electromechanical actuators. The technology is presently not considered mature enough to serve as actuation solutions for primary flight controls that continually correct safety-critical aircraft flight trajectories. However, electromechanical actuators are being used in less crucial positions on board aircraft. On the Boeing 787, they are used to operate the landing gear brakes, trim the horizontal stabilizer, and activate the mid-board spoilers.