Generator Control Units (GCU)
Basic Functions of a Generator Control Unit (GCU)
The generator control unit (GCU) is more commonly found on turbine power aircraft. The most basic GCU perform a number of functions related to the regulation, sensing, and protection of the DC generation system. [Figure 12-332]
The most basic of the GCU functions is that of voltage regulation. Regulation of any kind requires the regulation unit to take a sample of an output and to compare that sample with a controlled reference. If the sample taken falls outside of the limits set by the reference, then the regulation unit must provide an adjustment to the unit generating the output so as to diminish or increase the output levels. In the case of the GCU, the output voltage from a generator is sensed by the GCU and compared to a reference voltage. If there is any difference between the two, the error is usually amplified and then sent back to the field excitation control portion of the circuit. The field excitation control then makes voltage⁄excitation adjustments in the field winding of the generator in order to bring the output voltage back into required bus tolerances.
Like the voltage regulation feature of the GCU, the overvoltage protection system compares the sampled voltage to reference voltage. The output of the over-voltage protection circuit is used to open the relay that controls the output for the field excitation. These types of faults can occur for a number of reasons. The most common, however, is the failure of the voltage regulation circuit in the GCU.
Parallel Generator Operations
The paralleling feature of the GCU allows for two or more GCU/generator systems to work in a shared effort to provide current to the aircraft electrical system. Comparing voltages between the equalizer bus and the interpole/compensator voltage, and amplifying the differences accomplishes the control of this system. The difference is then sent to the voltage regulation circuit, where adjustments are then made in the regulation output. These adjustments continue until all of the busses are equalized in their load sharing. Over-Excitation Protection When a GCU in a paralleled system fails, a situation can occur where one of the generators becomes overexcited and tries to carry more than its share of the load, if not all of the loads. When this condition is sensed on the equalizing bus, the faulted generation control system shuts down by receiving a de-excitation signal. This signal is then transmitted to the overvoltage circuit, and then opens the field excitation output circuit.
When the GCU allows the logic output to close the generator line contactor, the generator voltage must be within a close tolerance of the load bus. If the output is not within the specified tolerance, then the contactor is not allowed to connect the generator to the bus.
Reverse Current Sensing
If the generator is unable to maintain the required voltage level, it eventually begins to draw current instead of providing it. In this case, the faulty generator is seen as a load to the other generators and will need to be removed from the bus. Once the generator is off-line, it is not permitted to be reconnected to the bus until such time that the generator faults are cleared and the generator is capable of providing a current to the bus. In most cases, the differential voltage circuit and the reverse current sensing circuit are one in the same.
Alternator Constant Speed Drive System
Alternators are not always connected directly to the airplane engine like DC generators. Since the various electrical devices operating on AC supplied by alternators are designed to operate at a certain voltage and at a specified frequency, the speed of the alternators must be constant; however, the speed of an airplane engine varies. Therefore, the engine, through a constant speed drive installed between the engine and the alternator, drives some alternators.
A typical hydraulic-type drive is shown in Figure 12-333. The following discussion of a constant speed drive system is based on such a drive found on large multiengine aircraft. The constant speed drive is a hydraulic transmission that may be controlled either electrically or mechanically.
The constant speed drive assembly is designed to deliver an output of 6,000 rpm, provided the input remains between 2,800 and 9,000 rpm. If the input, which is determined by engine speed, is below 6,000 rpm, the drive increases the speed in order to furnish the desired output. This stepping up of speed is known as overdrive.
In overdrive, an automobile engine operates at about the same rpm at 60 mph as it does in conventional drive at 49 mph. In aircraft, this principle is applied in the same manner. The constant speed drive enables the alternator to produce the same frequency at slightly above engine idle rpm as it would at takeoff or cruising rpm.
With the input speed to the drive set at 6,000 rpm, the output speed is the same. This is known as straight drive and might be compared to an automobile in high gear. However, when the input speed is greater than 6,000 rpm, it must be reduced to provide an output of 6,000 rpm. This is called underdrive, which is comparable to an automobile in low gear. Thus, the large input, caused by high engine rpm, is reduced to give the desired alternator speed.
As a result of this control by the constant speed drive, the frequency output of the generator varies from 420 cps at no load to 400 cps under full load. This, in brief, is the function of the constant speed drive assembly. Before discussing the various units and circuits, the overall operation of the transmission should be discussed as follows.