CAN Bus and Drones

UAV with KDE motors

What is CAN?

Let’s start at the 10,000’ level. CAN (short for Controller Area Network) is a central networking protocol, commonly used in vehicles, to allow microcontrollers and devices to communicate with one another in applications without the help of a host computer.

A Controller Area Network (CAN) refers to a network of independent controllers. It is a serial communications protocol that efficiently supports distributed real-time control with a very high level of security. The CAN bus standard was developed by Bosch and Intel; with versions of the current standard being in use since 1990.

CAN is an International Standardization Organization (ISO) defined serial communications bus, originally developed for the automotive industry to replace the complex wiring harness with a two-wire (parallel) bus. The specification calls for high immunity to electrical interference and the ability to self-diagnose and repair data errors; features leading to CAN’s sharp rise in popularity in recent years.

There are hundreds of millions of CAN nodes in use around the world, widely featured in passenger cars, buses, factory automation, work machines, agriculture, and forestry and mining industries - and the applications for CAN are increasing all the time.

CAN power can be supplied through a CAN bus, as well as a separately arranged power supply for the CAN bus modules. A vehicle bus is a specialized internal communications network that interconnects components within a vehicle, such as an automobile, aircraft, or, unsurprisingly, a bus. The controller area network (or CAN bus) is a vehicle bus standard allowing microcontrollers and devices to communicate with one another within applications without the help of a host computer. The CAN bus is a message-based protocol designed for multiplex electrical wiring within vehicles.

How does this affect Drones?

The aerospace industry has adopted CAN bus for many years and the technology is just starting to carry into the UAS industry.  With the adoption of CAN Bus, the technology now allows for the transfer of information both to the equipment and also, back to the host (such as from the flight controller to the ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) and back from the ESC to the flight controller) via a serial bus (similar to a USB bus).  Not only can the flight-controller manage the throttle of the ESC – but the ESC can now report data back to the flight controller (such as temperature, voltage, amperage, warning signals, etc.) via live-telemetry. This allows for safe monitoring of all the propulsion equipment, so the pilot can be monitoring the full system for safe operation and it all can be customized via live-programming. For instance, if a motor become overloaded and the ESC starts to overheat, a warning signal can be sent to the flight controller and then back to the pilot within microseconds, ensuring safe operation at all times.

This new technology for the industry will significantly increase reliability and information sent to the ground. The CAN bus protocol is digital-based, so it’s much more immune to noise than the current method of throttle control used in the industry, termed “PWM,” or pulse-width modulation.

The digital CAN multiplex serial-bus control will be incorporated into our upcoming KDE-UAS125UVC for UAS Multi- and Single-Rotor Applications controllers and available via future firmware releases, allowing for direct motor control and live-telemetry feedback to the flight controller for superior safety and operation.

Fly Safe with KDE Direct

KDE Direct uses the highest-quality materials and manufacturing processes to provide you with multi-rotor and single-rotor motors, electronics, propellers blades, and upgrades to ensure your drone takes off and lands safely.

Keep your eyes peeled for our KDE-UAS125UVC ESC for UAS Multi- and Single-Rotor Applications, available soon!

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