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Future technologies for condition and health monitoring

Efficiency enhancement, cost reduction, and safety improvements are important drivers of technology developments in aviation. Novel sensor systems provide additional information on the state of components and structures with potentially transformative impacts on design, operation, and maintenance paradigms. For instance, turbine engines may be designed for optimised efficiency and for running closer to their operational limit. Furthermore, comprehensive system state information is the basis for the ongoing transition from conventional, schedule-based to condition-based maintenance.

Key requirements to realise these potentials involve robust and reliable sensing architectures, which are evaluated in the framework of Bauhaus Luftfahrt’s future technology analysis. Advanced thin-film-based sensors were identified as one promising sensing technology. The high degree of miniaturisation enables minimally invasive structural embedding in favour of durability and survivability, high resolution and low power consumption.

Lightweight and flexible wireless sensor networks acquire the raw data from a large number of sensors with low installation and maintenance cost, for example for structural health monitoring. Energy harvesting potentials for energy self-sufficient operation were identified (Fig. below).

Energy and bandwidth demand may be optimised by means of network and computing architectures, which incorporate partial processing and exchange of locally collected data and information within a cyberphysical system approach.

The emerging large data volumes on aircraft and fleet level can be exploited by big data approaches, which are evaluated with regard to improved quality of decision making.

  • Energy harvesting – power for wireless sensor networks: The otherwise wasted energy from various sources in the aircraft environment may be harvested. This allows for energy self-sufficient, low-duty cycle operation of wireless sensor network nodes for health monitoring applications.Energy harvesting – power for wireless sensor networks: The otherwise wasted energy from various sources in the aircraft environment may be harvested. This allows for energy self-sufficient, low-duty cycle operation of wireless sensor network nodes for health monitoring applications.
  • Strong growth of data production: In-flight data production has multiplied by a factor 40 in the last 30 years. Real-time health monitoring, enabled by big data approaches, is an important prerequisite for preventive maintenance processes.Strong growth of data production: In-flight data production has multiplied by a factor 40 in the last 30 years. Real-time health monitoring, enabled by big data approaches, is an important prerequisite for preventive maintenance processes.