Releasing the stress of an aircraft
Engineers together with well-equipped British experts at BAE Systems Advanced Technology Center are in the process of developing a human-like skin for aircraft. They are looking at the possibility of embedding thousands of micro sensors onto the body of an aircraft for the primary purpose to detect any damages or stress in an aircraft. The idea is to come up with an aircraft that could feel in some ways the same way that humans feel under stress.
A senior BAE scientist “tumble dryer” revealed this technology
Lydia Hyde, the senior scientist of BAE Systems, had her moment of “Eureka” while watching her tumble dryer that uses a sensor to prevent overheating. She noticed that a simple sensor inbuilt in the tumble dryer prevented the appliance from overheating. Her observation led her to the idea of using the same application of the sensor to Hyde’s work and creates miniature sensors to have the same effect in multiple layers. As mentioned by Ms. Hyde, “Observing how a simple sensor can be used to stop a domestic appliance overheating got me thinking about how this could be applied to my work and how we could replace bulky, expensive sensors with cheap, miniature, multi-function sensors. This innovative thought led to the idea that an aircraft could be layered by thousands of miniature sensors to create a ‘smart skin’ that can sense the ambience. And monitor the conditions by allowing the multilayer sensory skin to detect any stress, heat or damage,” she added.
Contribution to the Aviation Industry
When these “smart “sensors are applied to an aircraft, the sensors allow the aircraft to feel its natural state, such as the changes in temperature, wind speed and physical strain. The size of the sensors could be about the size of a grain of sand at less than one [millimeter] of squared particles. Each particle would be individually powered, and when paired with an appropriate program, the individual sensory particles would be able to communicate in a similar manner to that of the human skin sensor that alerts the brain when something is not right. The sensors are so tiny that the scientists working on this project at BAE are exhausting their minds, exploring ways to fit or place these small particle sensors to aircraft. The thought of using a spray gun to spray these sensory particles on aircraft frames is part of their latest experiment.
The benefits of the Smart Skin
The groundbreaking technology from BAE Systems would benefit the engineers and maintenance crews because problems are reported to them as soon as detected by the sensors. The data collected by the sensors is used to notify them about the damage in the aircraft, thus, reducing the need for regular and frequent maintenance check. As mentioned by Hyde, the “smart” skin would provide a comfortable experience for pilots and the passengers because it detects airflow across the surface of the plane and automatically adjusts the airflow to the right conditions.
The “smart” Sensor skin connection to flight computers that rely on detecting fresh data would save time in detecting faults. Standard pre-flight check of the plane body frame would be lessened, allowing pilots to stay on schedule. It goes without saying that pilots would feel safer by having real-time data that can detect vital faults that could be missed by pre-flight surface checks. This new technology would also be of benefits to aerospace companies, helping them to save money and time by detecting and repairing any faults before it could cause grave concerns. The “smart” Sensor skin technology would assure our next future generation a much safer and comfortable flight.
Imagine aircraft flying without pilots, aircraft with smart sensor human skin like. Who would have ever thought of that a few years ago? What is next? I guess Star Trek could soon become a reality “Beam me up Scotty”.