Networks of embedded sensors aboard commercial aircraft are expected to soon provide warnings of structural flaws and other problems. These nascent systems, which are being evaluated by Sandia National Laboratories of Albuquerque, N.M., would reduce requirements for constant airframe inspections and, thus, save money.
Dennis Roach, who is leading a Sandia team that is evaluating such systems, believes that structural health monitoring could ultimately save about 25 percent of a commercial fleet’s operating expenses.
Ground crews would acquire sensor information by plugging a laptop into a central port on an aircraft. Ultimately, Roach believes that “smart structures” that are equipped with multiple sensors could “self diagnose” and alert maintenance personnel when problems are encountered.