Sensors developed that can detect aircraft damage as it happens

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. Researchers with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center have developed and tested networked acoustic emission sensors that can detect airframe damage on conceptual composite UH-60 Black Hawk rotorcraft.

The research team said that their discovery opens up possibilities for new onboard features that would immediately alert the flight crew in the event of serious structural damage like matrix cracking and delamination as they occur. Such a warning would allow the crew more time to take corrective actions before catastrophic failure.

Dr. Mulugeta Haile, research aerospace engineer, said that the team turned to acoustic emission tests because other methods such as ultrasonic and radiograph technologies require an external energy source in the form of a directed wave.

The ARL sensor network is composed of several lightweight transducers encapsulated in 3-D printed non-intrusive sensor mounts; network are optimally distributed in multiple zones to maximize coverage and enhance damage detection. The data-acquisition process is embedded with a software-controllable timing parameter to reject reflections of a direct wave as well as waves coming from non-damage-related events.

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