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Posted at: Jan 11, 2017, 12:04 AM; last updated: Jan 11, 2017, 12:04 AM (IST)

Sift and select

Before choosing any branch of engineering it is necessary to understand the subtle differences between the seemingly similar disciplines

Gauri Chhabra

One field that has gone full circle over the past few years is Engineering. From a discipline that had just 4 offshoots like Mechanical, Chemical, Civil and Electrical, it has come a long way and encompasses many new branches. This has been due to the changing societal needs and technological advances. With so many branches available, students are always in a confusion so as what to choose. Some of them overlap with each other in many ways. Examples include the sets of engineering fields like Electrical Engineering (EE) and Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE), and Aeronautics and Avionics Engineering.

Let us understand the subtle differences between these fields:

Electrical Engineering (EE) & Electronics and Electrical Engineering (EEE)

Both these fields of engineering seem very similar but there are clear cut differences between them. Electrical engineering deals with the generation of electricity by various means like thermal, tidal, solar or hydro, which can be used by electrical motors, vacuum cleaners, lamps, submersible motors. Simply put, it deals with the method of producing electricity, the different means of production, the production or manufacturing machine that uses electricity, electric measuring instruments.. 

On the other hand, Electronics Engineering deals with the development and application of devices that use the flow of electrons in gaseous and vacuum form in semiconductor media. While the latter deals with the study of electricity, power generation and electromagnetism, the former deals with the study of electrons.  Electronics engineering is a branch that has  evolved from Electrical engineering but is a broader field that deals with analog electronics, consumer electronics, embedded systems, digital electronics and power electronics.

Course Curriculum

As an EE student, you may learn about electrical machines, power systems, controls and instrumentation, power electronics and power systems operation and control. On the other hand, as an EEE student, you may learn about semiconductor devices, solid state physics, linear electronics, embedded systems, digital electronics, and advanced electronics.

When the course of electrical engineering is merged with a few  core subjects  of  electronics  engineering, it results in a branch known as  electrical and electronics engineering. This is done to increase the knowledge of electrical engineers in areas like digital and analog electronics, microprocessors, embedded systems, communication and in signal processing. The base branch is  electrical, but the difference is that the electrical and electronics engineering course is not purely electrical, but has  a  few subjects from the electronic engineering course. Some companies specifically request electrical engineers, but most will take in electrical and electronics engineering graduates as well. Some exams like the Engineering Services Examination (ESE) only have an option of electrical and not electrical and electronics engineering. 

Job duties

The work of electrical and electronics engineers is often similar. Both use engineering and design software and equipment to carry out engineering tasks. 

Electrical engineers typically design new ways to use electrical power to develop or improve products, perform detailed calculations to develop manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications, direct the manufacture, installation, and testing of electrical equipment to ensure that products meet specifications and codes. They also investigate complaints from customers, evaluate problems, and recommend solutions and work with project managers on production efforts to ensure that projects are completed satisfactorily, on time, and within budget.

On the other hand, EEE Engineers focus on designing electronic components, software, products, or systems for commercial, industrial, medical, military, or scientific applications. They inspect electronic equipment, instruments, and systems to make sure that they meet safety standards and applicable regulations besides planning and developing applications and modifications for electronic properties used in parts and systems in order to improve technical performance. Electronics engineers who work for the government research, develop, and evaluate electronic devices used in a variety of areas, such as aviation, computing, transportation, and manufacturing. 

Placements

In EEE the competition is not very tough and the availability of jobs is good. However, for individuals angling to become a JTO (Junior Training Officer), or getting into DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization), ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), EEE is not a good choice. This is because they have a separate paper for ECE, while students pursuing EEE have to study a lot of other things. Besides this, EEE students can't take IES, while ECE students can.

If you wish to find a job in Central and state government departments and their sponsored corporations, private industries dealing in manufacture, sales and services of electronics consumer goods and appliances, opt for Electrical Engineering. Electronics engineers are also absorbed into the broadcast industry, and research establishments.

Aeronautical & Avionics engineering

Aeronautical Engineering deals with the development of new technology in the field of aviation, space exploration and defence systems. It specialises in the designing, construction, development, testing, operation and maintenance of both commercial and military aircraft, spacecrafts and their components as well as satellites and missiles. The specialisations are in areas like structural design, navigational guidance and control systems, instrumentation and communication or production methods or it can be in a particular product such as military aircraft, passenger planes, helicopters, satellites, rockets etc. 

Avionics is like electronics. It involves the navigation system of satellites, signal processing. It is a sub field of aeronautical engineering and deals with electronic systems that are used on aircraft, artificial satellites and space crafts.Basically, it deals with the systems that are required for the aircraft to work seamlessly. Electronics in aviation is avionics. Avionics can be defined as 'Electronic Equipment used in the air'. This simple definition touches virtually every aspect of a modern aircraft, from the Engine Computers to the Fly-by-Wire Flight Control System. 

Course curriculum

A common aeronautics programme includes an introduction to the history of both atmospheric and space flight, including the basic elements of aerodynamics, fluid mechanics, rocket propulsion, launch systems, and thermodynamics. Advanced courses include aviation law and mechanical diagnostics.

The Avionics curriculum includes a number of core Electronics and Electrical subjects like Control Systems, Digital Electronics, Communication, Computer systems and all other associated subjects. In addition to courses in avionics, courses in Basic Sciences, Aerospace Systems, Economics, Management and Humanities are also there.

Job Duties

Both the engineering branches differ in the job responsibilities that they offer. While it is the job of an aeronautical engineer to keep the aircraft airborne, 

it is the job of an avionics engineer to design systems to navigate from point A to point B or in case of missiles, to design guidance control systems to see that the missile reaches its target. Aeronautical Engineers design and develop aircraft and conduct space and satellite research. Some also develop advanced technologies for aerodynamic vehicles such as submarines, hydrofoils, high-speed trains and wind turbines. Avionics engineers design and develop aircraft and spacecraft avionic instrumentation. They also conduct research to address problems associated with flight safety systems, landing gear and electronic navigation systems. Systems Engineers work on new aircraft at the conceptual stage, studying and defining what technologies can be applied. At the design stage they generate detailed equipment specifications and design suitable equipment. They conduct and support flight trials and manufacture.

Placements

Aeronautical engineers may work in areas like design, development, and maintenance as well as in the managerial and teaching posts in institutes. They find a very good demand in airlines, aircraft manufacturing units, air turbine production plants or design development programmes for the aviation industry. Job opportunities for an aeronautical engineer in India, lies with various airlines like Air India, Indian Airlines,  Helicopter Corporation of India and flying clubs, private airlines and government owned air service and aircraft manufacturers like the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) with its factories at Bangalore, Nasik, Kanpur etc. Defence Research and Development Laboratories, National Aeronautical Lab (NAL), Aeronautical Development Establishment, Civil Aviation Department etc. The Defence services and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) also happen to be two major employers.

For Avionics Engineers, employment prospects exist in organisations like Indian Air Force, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Indian Space Research Organization, Defence Research Development and Establishment and National Aeronautics Laboratory (NAL) or simply in the airline industry where qualified engineers are absorbed as technical officers.


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