TE Connectivity previews advanced load sensors for aircraft structural health monitoring

PARIS, 17 June 2013. TE Connectivity (TE) previewed an emerging technology at the Paris Air Show, providing a first look at advanced load sensors (still in development) that will serve as part of a proactive warning system for aircraft structure and ancillary systems.

Structural health monitoring is an emerging technology for the aerospace industry, driving the need for appropriate sensor systems. As part of a government-funded research project and in cooperation with an aircraft manufacture and system supplier, TE Connectivity is developing new sensor solutions to monitor the structural health (e.g., loads, wear over lifetime) of aircraft components and help provide reliable sensor signals to support the operation of a structural health monitoring system.

A structural health monitoring system enables the immediate detection of failure conditions, wearing and degrading of component service life. Structural health monitoring systems limit the work of unscheduled maintenance and improve the operational availability in today’s core competence around non-contact, wear-free and reliable position sensing (proximity, linear displacement, and rotary position).

“TE is at the forefront in sensor development, packaging and seamless integration of sensor systems, including harnessing and interconnection solutions,” explains Ulrich Hecker, global product manager, TE Connectivity, Global Aerospace, Defense & Marine. “At Paris Air Show, we are giving industry professionals a sneak peek at this important developing technology, as we continue investigating and expanding new sensor technologies to meet future market needs.”

The new sensors will allow continuous monitoring of the loads applied to components or the airframe structure: detecting overloads, disconnects or wear in the related bearings. By offering continuous monitoring over the lifetime of an aircraft, the sensors enable more reliable service life of the overall system.

The sensor in development will be part of the high lift system, focused on primary and secondary flight control systems. Further applications for the technology could include landing gear as well as other system applications. For landing gear, the load sensors would be able to show the history of hard landings and the level of wear and tear resulting from those landings to signal the optimal time to conduct preventive maintenance.

With this ability for early wear detection and pre-maintenance of aircraft structure and ancillary systems, aircraft manufacturers and system maintenance personnel will be able to help provide enhanced safety and significant costs savings to commercial airlines. Other benefits of the load sensors include their light weight, compact form, and low power consumption.  

“Through our collaboration with OEMs early in the design phase on this important new technology, we are able to create what we think are the best solutions possible for component reliability, service life and overall aircraft performance,” Hecker adds.


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