What is GPU in Aviation? (Ground Power Unit)

In the world of aviation, there are numerous terms and acronyms that can be confusing for those who are not familiar with the industry. One such term is the Ground Power Unit, often referred to as GPU. A Ground Power Unit is a vital piece of equipment used in aviation to provide electrical power to aircraft when they are on the ground. It plays a crucial role in ensuring that aircraft systems are powered and functioning properly during pre-flight operations, maintenance, and ground handling. Let’s delve deeper into the details of this essential equipment and understand its significance within the aviation industry.

The Importance of Ground Power Units

When an aircraft is on the ground, it needs a reliable source of electrical power to operate various systems such as lights, instruments, and avionics. This is where the Ground Power Unit comes into play. The GPU acts as an external power supply, allowing the aircraft to draw electricity and function efficiently when the main engines are not running or are undergoing maintenance.

Ground Power Units are not only crucial for powering the aircraft’s electrical systems but also serve as a backup power source during emergencies. For instance, in the case of an engine failure or during an extended delay on the runway, the GPU ensures that essential systems remain operational, providing comfort and safety to passengers and crew.

Types of Ground Power Units

Ground Power Units come in various types and configurations, depending on the power requirements of different aircraft. The most common types include:

1. Fixed Ground Power Units (FGPU): These units are typically located at airport gates and are permanently installed to provide a continuous and reliable power supply to aircraft during ground operations. FGPU units are capable of delivering high levels of electrical power and are essential for larger aircraft.

2. Mobile Ground Power Units (MGPU): As the name suggests, MGPU units are portable and can be maneuvered to different locations on the airfield. They are commonly used in situations where fixed units are not available or when aircraft require power in remote areas. MGPU units are especially beneficial for smaller aircraft that do not have high power demand.

3. Hybrid Ground Power Units: These units combine the benefits of both fixed and mobile units. Hybrid GPU systems can be installed at airport gates and have the capability to disconnect from the fixed infrastructure and operate as mobile units if needed. This flexibility allows airports to optimize their power supply based on demand and operational requirements.

Operating Capacities and Features

Ground Power Units are designed to meet the electrical power demands of different aircraft. The capacity of these units is measured in kilovolt-amperes (kVA) or kilowatts (kW). Larger aircraft with extensive power requirements, such as wide-body commercial jets, may require GPU units with capacities ranging from 90 kVA up to 180 kVA. On the other hand, smaller aircraft, including regional jets and turboprops, typically utilize GPU units with capacities ranging from 30 kVA to 90 kVA.

Modern Ground Power Units offer various features and capabilities to ensure efficient and safe power delivery. Some common features include:

1. Output Voltage: Ground Power Units are designed to provide aircraft with the specific voltage required to power their electrical systems. Standard output voltages range from 200V AC to 400V AC, although some aircraft may have unique requirements that need to be met.

2. Frequency: The frequency of the electrical power supplied by Ground Power Units is typically set at 400Hz, which is the standard for most commercial aircraft. However, some military aircraft and older aircraft models may have different frequency requirements.

3. Remote Monitoring: Many Ground Power Units are equipped with advanced monitoring systems that allow operators to remotely monitor and control the unit’s performance. This feature enables prompt troubleshooting and minimizes downtime.

Moreover, Ground Power Units are often designed to comply with stringent safety standards, including international regulations set by organizations such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These regulations ensure that Ground Power Units are manufactured to meet specific safety requirements and withstand challenging operating conditions in the aviation industry.

Advancements in Ground Power Units

As technology continues to advance, Ground Power Units have also undergone significant improvements to meet the evolving needs of the aviation industry. One noteworthy advancement is the introduction of environmentally-friendly Ground Power Units. These units utilize cleaner energy sources, such as natural gas or hydrogen fuel cells, to reduce emissions and minimize environmental impact. They offer a greener alternative to traditional diesel-powered units and align with the aviation industry’s efforts to adopt sustainable practices.

Another notable development is the integration of intelligent systems into Ground Power Units. These systems utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to optimize power usage, predict maintenance requirements, and enhance overall operational efficiency. With real-time data and analytics, airports and aviation companies can make informed decisions regarding power distribution, equipment maintenance, and resource allocation.


Ground Power Units, or GPUs, are indispensable equipment in the aviation industry. They provide essential electrical power to aircraft while on the ground, ensuring proper functioning of systems and enhancing passenger comfort. Available in different types and configurations, Ground Power Units cater to the diverse power requirements of various aircraft. With advancements in technology, these units continue to evolve, becoming more environmentally friendly and incorporating intelligent systems for optimal performance. As aviation progresses, Ground Power Units will undoubtedly remain a vital component in the efficient and safe operation of aircraft on the ground.

For More: What is AIRMET in Aviation? (Air-Mission’S Meteorological Advisory)