The development of actuators for flight control surfaces based on electrical technologies had a breakthrough in the last decade. Nevertheless, servo-hydraulic systems are still widely used. Servo Hydraulic Actuators (SHA) have the advantages of precise positioning, high dynamic response and being a jam-free solution in case of failures, but they present low energy efficiency. Digital hydraulics has become a topic of interest in improving energy efficiency in the fluid power community. A Digital Hydraulic Actuator (DHA) for aircraft is being developed to be used in primary flight control surfaces. The DHA concept is based on secondary control with multi-chamber cylinders and shows an energy efficiency gain with a similar response when compared to SHA. However, the opening and closing times of on/off valves are different and uncertain. These aspects may result in short circuits, bringing energy losses, or in blocked chambers, which may cause pressure peaks or cavitation. Consequently, the DHA system may have a lower energy efficiency or presents vibration due to fluid blocking. The present paper presents a solution for these issues and the reliability evaluation of the DHA. The opening and closing times issues are addressed using the synchronization between on/off valves through a method to find the correct time for valve opening control. As a result, the synchronization of pressure shifting without knowledge of the response times of on/off valves was accomplished. Moreover, when used periodically, this method can estimate future failures in valves due to a change of the required time delay. In order to evaluate the system reliability, FTA models were developed considering valve and pressure line failures, modelling how the failures affect force availability to move the control surfaces. The resulting FTAs were reduced to the minimum cut-sets that lead to force profiles that are insufficient for a safe flight and also may lead to an aircraft crash. Considering that the on/off valves have similar failure rates to those of servo valves, the results show that DHA and SHA have comparable reliability levels.

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