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Environmental Control Systems Critical to Regulating Aircraft Passenger Environments

November 17, 2022

One of the key expectations when on board a passenger or commercial aircraft? Comfortability and safety in the passenger cabin! This is accomplished via Environmental Control System valves, or ECS valves, which efficiently and reliably manage the temperature and pressure-regulated air for heating, pressurizing, and ventilating the passenger area. This system utilizes pressurized, hot air from the plane’s engine and distributes it throughout the cabin via a complex system comprised of sensors, controllers, and valves to provide the desired temperature and pressure at key points. The ECS system also manages a few safety features, including the depressurization of the cabin and the anti-icing system.

How ECS Valves Utilize Miniature Motors

Miniature motors are critical elements to a well-designed environmental control system and can be grouped into two general types:

  1. On and Off Valves, which are used for cabin depressurization.
  2. Regulated Valves are utilized for pressure and ventilation regulation in the cabin. These can be adjusted in several steps, ranging from a closed to a fully open position.

These motion solutions provide greater capacity to better cool the system, increased efficiency to lower fuel costs, and improved ease of maintenance to reduce operating costs of commercial and private aircraft. Other factors that this application prioritizes include:

  • Lightweight and compact to improve the aircraft’s fuel efficiency
  • Precision control to ensure the proper positioning and operation of the valve
  • Reliability to minimize maintenance costs of the ECS system

Motor Technologies for Environmental Control Systems

There are a variety of motor technologies that are well-suited for ECS valves, depending on the specific valve type and the application. Stepper motors are ideal for regulated valves, given their precise positioning capabilities, while brush DC motors are a lightweight and economical solution for on/off valves. Brushless DC motors can be employed by both types of valve applications, with brushless slotted flat motors (such as Portescap’s ECF range) providing a BLDC solution in an extremely compact form factor.

Other considerations to account for when selecting a motor for ECS systems are ensuring that the miniature motor designs are suitable for operation beyond the cabin of the plane in a hazardous environment (including extreme temperature, vibration, and humidity), as well as customizing the system via using redundant hall sensors or unique position pickup to confirm the location of the motor/valve.

Searching for a new motion solution for your Environmental Control System? Reach out to us directly here!