Do Aircraft Rely on AC or DC power for their Avionics and Electrical Components

When electricity was first introduced commercially for lighting and powering motors, there was heavy debate on whether DC or AC power should be used. While DC power could provide an unchanging polarity that could be steadily relied upon for wiring, AC power would constantly shift between positive and negative polarity. While one may think that this method of operation makes AC power detrimental for powering systems, the changing of voltage allows for voltage to be adjusted much easier and creates the ability for low amps to be sent over great distances with a small amount of wiring. Due to these advantages, AC powering quickly became the standard for most commercial buildings and private homes across the globe.

While AC power proved to be the more efficient and useful current type, the first aircraft to use electrical powering were designed to use DC power. Despite this, an eventual push was made to implement AC power, and such changes brought up concerns regarding the size and weight of needed supplies. With the amount of transformers, power supplies, and motors all needed to provide AC current at the standard 60 Hz frequency that is seen in homes, engineers instead sought to create components that could provide a higher frequency. With such a change, components could be produced much lighter, and the amount of power loss through such a frequency value would be very low for the distance that current would be required to travel.

With the creation of the 400 Hz AC generator, small generators became able to produce the same amount of power of much larger pieces that served as their predecessors. Because of this change, aircraft operators could then load more cargo, decrease their fuel consumption, and obtain other benefits that solidified the 400 Hz frequency as the aerospace standard. With standardization, interchanging parts for aircraft has also become much more common and beneficial as operators do not have to worry about what frequencies parts are capable of handling or are most efficient under.

Despite the gradual shift to AC powering for aviation applications, DC power still serves many aircraft and may be used for a number of standard components. For aircraft parts such as the battery, DC power is required for charging. As such, AC to DC power supply components and AC to DC power cables are useful for transforming alternating current to direct current for battery charging. Additionally, DC power is required for a number of avionics and cockpit displays, thus requiring transformer-rectifiers. Transformer-rectifiers are electronic devices that may be used to convert alternating current to direct current, and they can come in a variety of forms to accommodate diverse needs. By combining a transformer and a rectifier into a single unit, 120V AC power provided by the APU, GPU, or aircraft engine can be converted into 28V DC power for use by avionics and other electrical components.

With AC or DC power supplies and converting equipment, the powering of all electronics and electrical components on an aircraft is simple. At Fulfillment 3Sixty, we can help you secure competitive pricing and rapid lead-times on AC to DC power cable components, DC to DC power supplies, AC to DC power supplies, and much more. As a leading online distributor serving the aviation industry, we utilize our market expertise and purchasing power to leverage competitive pricing and rapid lead-times for the benefit of our customers. If there are particular items from our inventory that you wish to source, fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form as provided on our website. Upon receipt of your request, a dedicated account manager will reach out to you in 15 minutes or less to provide a personalized solution to your needs.


March 11, 2021

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