Sensors in Fuselages Could Drastically Cut Maintenance Costs

Wireless, self-powered technology would transmit data on stress and maintenance needs.

In the not-so-distant future, the fuselages of airplanes will be fitted with wireless sensors that would transmit data on stress endured during flights and key maintenance information to ground crew.

The technology is being developed by aerospace and defense manufacturer, EADS Innovation Works, and offers the potential to make vast reductions in maintenance costs, which account for an estimated 22% of an aircrafts overall expenses per flight hour, according to the company.

The system being developed by EADS Innovation Works would have data-collecting sensors work wirelessly and power themselves through thermoelectricity, known as energy harvesting, which means converting heat flow into electrical power with the aid of a thermoelectric generator.

A wireless sensor network that supplies itself with energy on location is a good solution to collecting maintenance relevant data at a low cost, said PhD student Dominik Samson from EADS Innovation Works. The system, he said, would save enormous amounts of time, because the aircraft would tell the crew where the problem was.

According to Josef Schalk, head of communications technology at EADS Innovation Works, the sensors could also be placed in areas such as the wing tip where cables cannot reach and batteries offer only a limited lifetime.

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