A start-up company, Vertical Power, is just beginning to deliver a revolutionary product, the VP-200, a near plug-and-play electrical system for homebuilts that eliminates many of the mechanical components of an airplane's wiring system and replaces them with a smart, user-configurable, semi-automatic load shedding, solid-state system with more capabilities than most of us ever knew an electrical system could have.
Electrical system management isn't a sexy subject, but it's one of the most critical. Our airplanes' electrical needs have increased dramatically over time, but at the component level, their electrical systems have improved only incrementally without changing fundamentally. In light aircraft today, even recently developed, technologically advanced designs, like those from Cessna and Cirrus, have electrical systems that, while sophisticated and thoughtfully designed, are not very different at the component level from the first Skyhawk of the mid-1950s.
The VP-200 closes the gap substantially. At the heart of the system is a control switching box with individual, intelligent solid-state circuits that replace the dumb, mechanical circuit breakers and relays in today's light airplanes. It houses the switching circuitry for the airplane's various electrical devices, provides short protection, measures the current and shares its data with the dedicated Vertical Power display/control box, which you can use to configure the system select, selecting options such as flap speed limitations. A switching panel, which gives you control over the electrical system, features several user-configurable switches that can be set to act as dedicated on/off switches, for one or a series of devices.
As you progress from start-up to shutdown, the VP-200 presents you with a series of modes, or phases of flight, that guide you through the equipment selection process. It also gives you ongoing status of the system and alerts you to possible problems. If you lose an alternator, the system guides you through the load shedding process. There's even a programmable remote control that allows you to do things like flip on the exterior lights during your preflight.
Though pricey at $6,495, the VP-200 will save homebuilders precious time in the building process, as it simplifies the tedious chore of building out the electrical system, while enhancing safety and reliability. While the VP-200 is only available in the homebuilt market at this point, the technology is certain to trickle up over time.
For more information, visit verticalpower.com.