Vicor Powers Unmanned Underwater Towed Vehicle

January 20, 2011
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Vicor products’ rugged design takes them into many demanding applications, including marine environments. In one example, MegaPAC configurable power supplies are delivering the non-standard voltages essential for the successful operation of Triaxus, an innovative unmanned underwater towed vehicle used for oceanographic and environmental monitoring data collection, designed by underwater technology specialists the MacArtney Group.

A complete Triaxus system comprises an on-ship industrial PC-based controller running a Windows software package, the towed vehicle and an armoured towing cable of up to 4000 m length. Within the cable, fibreoptic and copper cores carry data and power respectively. The vehicle can accept instruments such as optical plankton counters, radiation sensors, fluorometers, transmissometers, cameras, lights and other oceanographic sensors to meet different applications’ needs.

Delivering power to the vehicle was a challenge due to the cable length and the vehicle’s 1500 W electricity demand. A high supply voltage was essential to avoid excessive I2R losses in the cable. The Triaxus’ designers sought advice from Marco Panizza, Vicor’s European Applications Engineering Manager. He recommended a MegaPAC chassis populated with eight 48 Vdc ConverterPACs, which could be configured to exactly meet MacArtney’s 360 Vdc 1500 W power requirement.

Marco achieved this fit for MacArtney by using Vicor’s PowerBench configurator. This met the 360 V specification by trimming each of the eight ConverterPAC module outputs to 45 V, and connecting them in series. This series connection was implemented physically by specifying Westcor-produced busbars for installation across the front of the modules. Once PowerBench had generated this configuration, MacArtney could use it to order application-ready modules as needed.

Throughout this process, Marco continued to provide advice and resolve issues that arose, including overvoltage protection, safety approvals and requirements for detailed technical data. The result was a compact, rugged and reliable product ready for service in the harsh environment of a deep sea exploration vessel – a solution tailored exactly to MacArtney’s specification, delivered on time and without NRE costs.

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