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Networked Sensor Systems for Aircraft Maintenance


OBJECTIVE: Create novel networked sensor systems for aircraft maintenance system to enhance existing aircraft maintenance capability. DESCRIPTION: Aircraft electrical and mechanical subsystem failures and the time to perform subsystem maintenance reduce aircraft availability and mission readiness. Intermediate and flight-line maintenance personnel do not always have the benefit of the current detailed health status and maintenance history of the aircraft at the time aircraft maintenance is performed. Typically, aircraft maintenance is dependent on a post-flight written and/or verbal debrief provided by the pilot(s). All too often, the maintenance personnel do not benefit from all of the existing aircraft health status and maintenance information. Failure mechanisms include leaks in the hydraulic fluid or fuel lines due to corrosion and wear of the lines from the fluids, gaseous contaminants or abrasive media. For many repair scenarios today, a cost and readiness driver is the absorption of fluids into composite structure. Hydraulic fluid is certainly the most widespread contaminant today, and its removal is a costly and time consuming process. Typical chemicals that pose corrosion challenges are cleaners, hydraulic fluid, lubricants, deicing fluids, used in aircraft, and environmental factors like humidity, oxidizers (Ozone, NOx, SOx, etc.), radiation (heat, ultraviolet), and biological organisms. These fluid lines could be located in hard to reach places around the body of the aircraft. An integrated sensor network system that can access these hard to reach corners and provide near-real time feedback on the integrity of the fluid and fuel handling systems would minimize the inspection burden and provide meaningful information to the aircraft maintenance crew. Such a leak detection system can be used in combination with new computing and information systems technology to design and develop a just-in-time aircraft maintenance system to automatically collect, store, manage, and intelligently exploit the health status and maintenance records of the aircraft in a timely manner for the benefit of the aircraft maintenance personnel. The end result is aimed at reducing the time to accomplish the necessary maintenance on the aircraft, thereby improving mission readiness. This integrated approach of vehicle health management systems will enable analysis of the current and historical data to determine and report aircraft health status, failures, and recommended maintenance actions. The system can take advantage of new computing and software technologies to minimize impact to the aircraft and maintenance process in terms of space, power, and weight. The system will ideally integrate seamlessly with existing maintenance processes. Several wireless technologies are being considered or in use to transmit/upload maintenance information to the ground crew prior to the aircraft landing to minimize down time and enhance mission preparedness. PHASE I: Propose a preliminary design for a prototype version of the aircraft fluid/fuel maintenance system for confined or hard to reach places. This effort shall address the system architecture, the application of new technology, design trade-offs, implementation issues, integration with existing aircraft, and how it will achieve the objective of this topic. PHASE II: Develop the detailed design and a prototype of the offeror"s proposed aircraft maintenance system. The offeror shall demonstrate the prototype system on an aircraft platform using viable test plans that clearly validate that the system will improve the performance of the aircraft maintenance. PHASE III: Develop production version(s) of the aircraft maintenance system for integration into one or more US military aircraft and associated maintenance processes. Commercial Application: Explore applications of the JIT aircraft maintenance system for commercial aircraft. REFERENCES: 1. Hess, A.,"The Joint Strike Aircraft Prognostics and Health Management,"4th Annual Systems Engineering Conference, 22-25 October 2001. Available at 2. Aero-Brite Universal Fluorescent Leak Detection Dye. 3. Christodoulou, L. and Larsen, J.M.,"Using Materials Prognosis to Maximize the Utilization Potential of Complex Mechanical Systems,"Journal of Materials, Vol. 56, No. 3, pp. 15-19, March 2004. 4) NTSB Report detailing fluid contamination; 5) Abaris Training;
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