Circuit protectors are essential devices for proper aircraft functioning and are prompted to turn on in a variety of situations. First, circuit protectors are useful in the event of a short circuit which happens because of an electrical disruption between different voltage potentials. This can cause wire overheating and other equipment damage. Another situation aircraft circuit protectors are prepared for is overload, which occurs when devices in a circuit are pulling more current than the system is able to handle all at once. Chronic circuit overloading heats wires in a network and can cause parts to degrade.
Furthermore, a third instance requiring circuit protection devices is parallel arcing which has the potential to damage the harness, nearby systems, and impact proper equipment functioning. Series arcing is a fourth, harder-to-detect failure event which causes thermal heating and equipment damage. Finally, faulty operation can cause circuit damage in an aircraft if its powered equipment starts operating outside of the characteristics stored in the protective device system. There are five main circuit protection devices, including: thermal circuit protection, magnetic circuit protection, fuse, arc fault circuit breaker (AFCB), and distributed power types.
Thermal circuit protection devices are known to be easily identifiable when activated and easily replaceable. Moreover, these types of devices have a long service history and are known to be reliable components, as long as individuals are performing frequent functionality checks. Though thermal circuit protection is easy to use, it also takes a significant period of time to reset and is heat sensitive, meaning it performs slowly in cold temperatures. Another device is the fuse, a smaller component which works quickly and is cheaper than alternatives. Despite this, fuses are significantly hazardous and are single-use items, meaning they need to be replaced after each use.
A third type of circuit protection device is the magnetic circuit breaker which is the second heaviest device type available. Despite this, it is possible to reset them without initially being cooled down, and they have a faster response time than thermal circuit protectors since they are not impacted by external temperatures. Additionally, arc fault circuit protection (AFCP) equipment works quickly to resolve faulty conditions, and these devices still use thermal circuit protection in case something goes wrong. An example of this would be notifying an individual that an arc fault is present. However, these cannot be placed on all circuits, reducing their usefulness. Finally, distributed power devices feature software that sets them to behave like thermal circuit protection equipment or trip curves while allowing one to control them remotely. The circuit protection and switching devices become a single component in the heaviest power device type, that of which is used mostly in unmanned vehicles.
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