A Study of the Degradation of Electronic Speed Controllers for Brushless DC Motors



George E. Gorospe Jr. Chetan S. Kulkarni Edward Hogge Andrew Hsu Natalie Ownby


Brushless DC motors are frequently used in electric aircraft and other direct drive applications. As these motors are not actually direct current machines but synchronous alternating current machines; they are electronically commutated by a power inverter. The power inverter for brushless DC motors typically used in small scale UAVs is a semiconductor based electronic commutator that is external to the motor and is referred to as an electronic speed control (ESC). This paper examines the performance changes of a UAV electric propulsion system resulting from ESC degradation. ESC performance is evaluated in simulation and on a new developed testbed featuring propulsion components from a reference UAV. An increase in the rise/fall times of the switched voltages is expected to cause timing issues at high motor speeds. This study paves the way for further development of diagnostic
and prognostic methods for inverter circuits which are part of the overall electric UAV system.

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