A mezzanine connector connects two printed circuit boards to each other, usually (but not always) in a parallel arrangement. A typical application is for daughter boards that contain an FPGA or ASIC programmed to specific requirements. Mezzanine connectors are available with a variety of stack heights and pin counts.
Connectors for Unmanned Vehicle Systems
Electrical Connectors for UAVs, Drones, UGV, USV and Robotics
Connectors are used in UAVs and other autonomous vehicles such as AUVs and ROVs to provide an interface for routing power, data and signals to and from different parts of the system. They typically consist of two parts – the receptacle, which contains pins, and the plug, which contains sockets that the pins mate with.
Connectors for SWaP conscious applications such as drones and UAVs, are naturally small form factor, lightweight connectors suited to rugged and harsh environments.
Types of Connectors
Most electrical connectors operate using a push-pull mechanism, and circular connectors may have a bayonet locking system. Connectors with unique keying for mating pairs allow for prevention of user errors such as cross-mating or mis-mating, which may cause a system to malfunction or permanently damage the connector. This is a particular concern for larger modern unmanned vehicles, which can have a large variety of sensors and subsystems and thus very complex interconnections.
COTS connectors most suited to aerial and unmanned use include:
- Circular Connectors
- High Density Connectors
- Latching Connectors
- Micro Connectors
- Micro D Connectors
- Miniature Connectors
- Nano Connectors
- Nano D Connectors
- Push-Pull Connectors
- Bi-Lobe Connectors
Mil Spec Connecters
Many electrical connectors, particularly those used in military applications and other harsh environments, have to be highly resistant to shock and vibration, such as in the conditions experienced during UAV landings. EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) issues are also a primary consideration due to the high data rates and multi-channel cables required by modern data and video streaming.
Military grade or mil-aero connectors are of rugged construction, built to robust specifications and designed to deliver highly reliable coupling without interruption.
Designed for subsea applications such as UUVs, USVs, AUVs and ROVs, marine connectors and waterproof interconnect technology comprises a wide variety of wet-mate, dry-mate and underwater mateble connectors. Designed to withstand harsh environments, corrosion and extremes in temperature, waterproof electrical and fiber optic connectors offer the same lightweight and SWaP conscious benefits of connectors designed for unmanned aerial vehicles.
The number of contacts in a connector can range from one to several hundred. Connectors may house contacts of mixed size with a variety of wire gauges, and may perform more than one function, transmitting power as well as data and signals in the same interface, and even mixing fibre optic cables with low and high-voltage wires. Such multimode connectors offer significant weight and space savings for UAVs and other SWaP-conscious applications.
Connector Bodies and Backshells
Aluminium bodies for connectors is common for higher-end components due to the lightweight yet rugged properties essential for unmanned aircraft. Cheaper connector bodies may be made of plastic. Connector backshells are available in a variety of different forms for specific applications such as panel mount, inline and right-angled. They may provide strain relief for the cable as well as EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) protection.
UAV Connectors: Frequently Asked Questions
FMC connectors allow connection of FPGA Mezzanine Cards, which are standardized modules containing an FPGA or other configurable hardware. The FMC standard defines two different sizes of high-speed connector, with either 160 or 400 pins.
Power connectors have been specifically designed to deliver AC or DC current to a component or system. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and designs, and may be keyed to prevent accidental reverse connection. Power connectors are typically rated with a maximum level of power or current that they can be exposed to without damage.
The pitch of a connector is the distance between two adjacent contacts in a row, and is measured from the centre of one contact to the centre of the next contact. Pitch may be specified in millimetres or inches.
PCB connectors are mounted to a printed circuit board, typically by through-hold or surface-mount soldering, and are used to carry power or signals to or from another PCB, part of the system or external device. They are available in a wide variety of form factors and orientations.
A backplane connector is one of several connectors arranged in parallel on a backplane board. Each pin on each backplane connector is linked to the equivalent pin on all other connectors, forming a bus. Backplane connectors provide system scalability and modularity, and easy interchanging of daughterboards with different functions.