Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and optionally piloted vehicles (OPVs) are designed with autonomous and remote control features. To function properly and safely, they must be made with the most reliable, precise components. 

Electromagnetic clutches and brakes can simplify design, reduce wear and maintenance, and improve reliability compared to traditional mechanical clutches and brakes. With better precision, torque transfer, and safety mechanisms, electromagnetic clutches and brakes can meet the stringent performance demands required to manufacture defense UAVs and OPVs.

Read on to learn more about these innovative motion control components and how they serve the military UAV and OPV markets. 


Electromagnetic Clutches in UAVs and OPVs

In February 2022, an autonomous, uninhabited Black Hawk helicopter flew for the first time. The project, led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Lockheed Martin, represents a significant milestone in the military UAV and OPV space and the components that power these systems. 

Clutch systems control the transfer of torque or power from the engine. Traditional clutches are activated by mechanical means, such as levers. With electromagnetic clutches, an electrical current creates a magnetic field to engage or disengage the clutch mechanism. A clutch is considered engaged when the armature makes contact with the rotor whether by a magnetic force or a spring force. Torque is transmitted once teeth or friction discs engage. When the rotor and armature separate, the clutch is disengaged. 

Many types of vehicles, including automated UAVs and OPVs, rely on electromagnetic clutches to control and halt movement. In onboard flight control systems of OPVs, pilots can disengage the clutch or brake to take over operations in case of system failure. Electromagnetic clutches offer a high degree of automation in manned and unmanned aircraft systems, with the potential to take on additional autonomous duties. These components are beneficial in:

  • Launching and landing mechanisms
  • Propulsion systems
  • Payload deployment systems


Electromagnetic Brakes in UAVs and OPVs

Electromagnetic brakes function similarly to electromagnetic clutches and rely on either a magnetic force or a spring force to engage and disengage the brake in order to slow, stop, or hold a load stationary. Power-off brakes act as a failsafe, automatically engaging the brake when power is intentionally or accidentally interrupted. Power-on brakes engage the brake when electric power is applied.

In UAVs and OPVs, these fast-acting, reliable brakes can improve safety, minimize the risk of human error, and enhance performance in hazardous or challenging conditions. Because of these characteristics and the ease with which a human pilot can take over control, they are frequently used for UAV and OPV applications such as:

  • Emergency braking systems
  • Landing gear systems
  • Stabilization systems


Advantages of Electromagnetic Clutches and Brakes in Autonomous Control Systems

Benefits of using electromagnetic clutches and brakes include:

  • Precision control
  • Smooth, consistent operation
  • Reduced wear on parts 
  • Minimized maintenance requirements
  • Quiet operation
  • High torque transmission
  • Rapid engagement and disengagement


Considerations for Brake & Clutch Engineering

Our customers often approach us with demanding application requirements, so we work closely with them to develop a customized solution. From prototyping to calibration to full production, SEPAC delivers innovative engineering solutions for even the most complex projects.

 Several of the key factors we consider for every brake or clutch application include the following:

  • Torque, shaft speed, horsepower, type of load
  • Environmental factors like dust, moisture, vibration, shock, corrosion, and altitude
  • Heat dissipation, ambient temperatures, heat sink
  • Other conditions, such as required service life, space available, and over-run speed


SEPAC Electromagnetic Clutches & Brakes in Action

At SEPAC, we provide a comprehensive selection of electromagnetic clutches and brakes, with the design and engineering capabilities to manufacture a custom product to meet your requirements. Our products are key to the success of many mission-critical operations, saving lives and protecting aerospace and defense equipment.

Here is an overview of our electromagnetic clutches and brakes in various real-life situations:

  • Missile fin operation: Accurate missile guidance has no room for error. Our electromagnetic brakes hold missile fins in position according to instructions from operators.
  • Gimbal deployment: Our electromagnetic power-off brakes hold the gimbal actuator in place or release as needed.
  • Weapons bay door actuation: Our power-off brakes can also hold various utility-type actuators in place, including weapons bay door drives.
  • Flight control actuation: SEPAC’s power-off brakes can hold flight control actuators in position. These actuators include primary and secondary flight control, and high-lift, leading-edge control systems.
  • Autopilot control and stability augmentation systems: Our electromagnetic clutches are used in these systems to produce high torque and low backlash. They take over in case of pilot incapacitation and other emergency scenarios.

Other applications for our electromagnetic clutches and brakes include:

  • Latch, separation, and umbilical systems
  • Cargo bay actuators
  • Flap actuators
  • Horizontal stabilizer trim actuation
  • Thrust reverser actuation
  • Thrust vector control actuation
  • Throttle control actuation
  • Cocking system electromechanical actuation


Choose SEPAC for Your Electromagnetic Clutches and Brakes

At SEPAC, our innovative electromagnetic clutches and brakes are designed to meet or exceed the rigorous demands of military UAVs and OPVs. As this field continues to grow and develop, it will require advanced components with rapid engagement and disengagement, precise control, high torque transmission, and enhanced safety mechanisms that electromagnetic clutches and brakes provide. 

When you work with us, we bring superior customer service, our AS9100 and ISO 9001 certifications, and an extensive history of designing our products to meet  MIL-SPEC and other demanding standard requirements.

Contact us today to learn more about our full capabilities. Submit an application data form or request a quote for your project.

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