Self-Referenced 3D Coating Inspector for Aircraft Engine Inlets/Exhausts

Award Information
Department of Defense
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Luna Innovations Incorporated
VA, Suite 400, Roanoke, VA, 24016-4692
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Evan Lally
Principal Investigator
(540) 558-1668
Business Contact:
Shirley Evans
Sr. Contract Administrator
(540) 961-6724
Research Institution:

ABSTRACT: Ensuring the safe and optimal operation of high-performance fighter aircraft is vital to the U.S. Air Force. Necessary maintenance includes inspection of engine inlets and exhausts for coating damage and defects that may compromise safety and optimal operation of the aircraft. Evaluating and logging details of the damaged areas is currently labor intensive and highly reliant on the performance of human inspectors. An automatic inspection system could reduce the time and increase the accuracy of damage characterization and registration, but the lack of recognizable features in engine cavities poses a potential detriment to any automatic system that relies on stiching of individual images or measurements to determine defect position. Luna Innovations proposes to design, build and test a self-referenced surface damage characterization and registration system for high-performance aircraft engine inlet and exhaust cavities. Through a unique combination of 3D surface mapping and Luna"s patented fiber optic shape and position sensing technology, the proposed 3D coating inspector can locate, characterize, and automatically log the absolute position of surface defects in three dimensions. Integration of Luna"s shape and position sensing fiber into a tethered inspection vehicle enables the system to make accurate absolute position measurements without relying on image stitching. BENEFIT: Luna"s proposed self-referenced 3D coating inspection system has the potential to transform aircraft maintenance and inspection procedures across the U.S. Air Force"s entire fleet of high-performance fighter aircraft, ultimately improving safety and efficiency. Automated inspection, characterization, and logging of damage on critical components will allow aircraft operators to maintain more accurate, detailed maintenance models while reducing the amount of time and effort spent collecting data. Additional military applications include Naval and Marine aircraft, and international platforms, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Successful development may eventually result in the demand for multiple automated inspection systems at major domestic and international Air Force bases, Naval airfields, and aircraft carriers. Luna has identified a number of additional applications in which the proposed technology can be adapted to meet civilian commercial and security needs. A remote inspection vehicle with 3D mapping and self-localization capabilities could prove valuable in mining and energy exploration, search and rescue, and counterterrorism applications.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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