Interconnection


Samtec high-speed interconnects in next-gen UAS

29 June 2022 Interconnection

UAVs, or drones, have been around for decades. Original drones resembled early-generation fighter jets controlled from the ground and used as targets for test pilots. As time passed, drones served as high-tech reconnaissance platforms and high-precision offensive weapons in military applications.

In recent years, drones have found many commercial uses as well. Popular e-commerce platforms and global retailers are using drones for order delivery. Hobbyists and tourists use commercial drones for unique photo and video opportunities. Drones are also used for numerous applications in the academic and scientific fields.

The latest commercial drones feature smaller sizes, increased functionality, and advanced AI capabilities using the latest technology. A good example of combining these innovations is the ModalAI VOXL 2 Autopilot system.

The VOXL 2 is the world’s most advanced Blue UAS Framework autopilot at its size. At only 16 g VOXL 2 boasts more AI computing than any other autopilot on the market and offers four times the computing power of the previous generation VOXL. The board integrates a PX4 real-time flight controller with an 8-core CPU, a GPU and NPU that provide a combined 15 Tera operations per second (TOPs), seven image sensors, and TDK IMUs and barometer. With support for Wi-Fi, 4G and 5G connectivity, VOXL 2 enables mission critical use cases with reliable connectivity and GPS-denied, beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) navigation. This smaller-than-a-business-card supercomputer will enable the next generation of smaller, smarter, and safer drones.

Most of the required electronics are condensed into a single PCB on the VOXL 2 making it SWaP optimised to power the smallest drones. Using a SWaP-optimised design eliminates the time and complexity that comes with sourcing and synchronising individual components together.

The ModalAI VOXL 2 platform uses several of Samtec’s board-to-board (B2B) interconnects for the transfer of data from add-on boards. The legacy B2B connector uses Samtec’s Q Strip high-speed mezzanine connectors. These connectors have SMT signal contacts and a ground plane for improved electrical performance. Eight different stack heights are available from 5 to nbsp;300 nbsp;mm and options include guideposts for blind mate scenarios as well as alignment pins and locking clips for proper connector placement.

Samtec’s high-speed board-to-board (HSB2B) connector plays host to various add-on cards such as the debug/PCIe and the 5G add-on boards. The VOXL 2 HSB2B connector uses Samtec’s AcceleRate HD ultra-dense multi-row mezzanine strips which are rated for 56 Gbps PAM4 on a 0,635 mm pitch. They feature high-speed Edge Rate contacts designed for high-speed, high-cycle applications.

The surface of each contact is milled, creating a smooth mating surface which reduces wear thereby increasing the contact’s life cycle. This smooth mating surface also provides for lower insertion and withdrawal forces.


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