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Structural Monitoring with Advanced Integrated Sensor Technologies


The continued growth in air traffic has placed an increasing demand on the aerospace industry to manufacture aircraft at lower costs, while, at the same time, ensuring the products are efficient to operate, envi-ronmentally friendly and maintain the required level of safety. The primary objective of the aero-space industry is to offer products that not only meet the operational criteria, in terms of pay-loads and range, but also in terms of significantly reduced direct operating cost, which is to the benefit of their customers, the airlines.

Project objectives

The objective of the proposed project is to allow the best and most advanced sensing technologies to become an integral part of the aircraft structure and so thus implement Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) into aircraft structural design with respect to maintenance cost reduction, increased aircraft availability and significant weight savings.

The main project target is to develop and validate monitoring technologies that are able to deliver the expected cost savings for maintenance and enable innovative structural design for metals and composites.

Description of the work

The project itself is split into three parts (Work Packages), of which Work Package 1 deals with the specifications, Work Package 2 with the technology development, and Work Package 3 with the application and validation tests. The project includes nine sensor and monitoring technologies of different natures, which, at the end of the project, have to prove their applicability with regard to the objectives and specifications set. Due to their different natures, not all the technologies will meet all of the objectives and specifications. However, all the objectives will be addressed and hopefully met by the different technologies involved. Providing different solutions to meeting the objectives will guarantee that the merging of different technologies into one system will still be possible in the end, and that this will lead to a system meeting all of the objectives being addressed. It is possible that none of the technologies presented are able to meet the objectives set at this stage. The monitoring technologies to be proved are:

  • Fibre Optic Bragg Gratings
  • Sensitive Coatings
  • Environmental Degradation Monitoring Sensors
  • µ-wave Antennas
  • Acousto-Ultrasonics
  • Comparative Vacuum Measurement
  • Acoustic Emission
  • Imaging Ultrasonics
  • Eddy Current Foil Systems

Expected results

The main innovation through SMIST will be to equip aero-structures with an integrated sensing function by adaptation of advanced sensor technologies to SHM systems, with the SHM systems being ready to be adapted to virtually any type of real aircraft structure and under a real in-service environment.