An alternator is an electrical generator that converts energy into electricity in the form of an alternating current (AC). An automatic drive controls the alternators rational speed allowing for the alternator to maintain a constant output. All AC alternators are required to rotate at a specific speed to keep the frequency of the AC voltage within proper limits. If a frequency strays more than 10 percent from the required value, the electrical system will not work properly. To ensure an alternator always stays within values, a unit called a constant-speed drive is used. This unit always rotates at the correct speed and can be mounted independently or within the alternator housing. This unit is comparable to an automatic transmission found in an automobile; the engine can change but the speed remains constant. In an aircraft, the hydraulic transmission is mounted between the AC alternator and the engine. Hydraulic oil is used to operate the transmission allowing for a constant output speed and engine rpm drives the hydraulic pump, turning the alternator.
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