Structures, Propulsion, And Control Engineering Center

Structural Health Monitoring

  • Research Area: Structural Health Monitoring

    The implementation of strategies to monitor and assess damage in structures is referred to as structural health monitoring (SHM). A considerable amount of research has been done in the last 30 years in the area of SHM aimed towards detecting damage on a more global basis. In the last decade, the research focus has shifted towards life-safety, economic considerations, and innovations in new materials, such as composites. In addition to safety, structural integrity, and detection of damages, newer innovations in SHM could lead to real-time monitoring of aircraft for avoidance of catastrophic events and flight control feedback. One such example is NASA’s Helios Wing which experienced an in-flight breakup due to large deflections and instability due to excessive vibrations. SHM may allow for useful monitoring that would prevent such an event by providing wing shape information and structural monitoring to either a pilot or the flight system, allowing for evasive maneuvers before the break-up would occur. A wide range of sensing technology has been used in application of SHM. Some of these include piezoelectric sensors for vibration monitoring, temperature sensors, potentiometers, wireless sensors, imaging sensors, and many more. As new materials become available, the desire to build lighter, faster and more robust aircraft leads to the need to reduce the size and weight of sensors while increasing the accuracy of their readings. Recent innovations in fiber-optics allow for the use of fiber optic sensors fitted with Fiber Bragg Gratings (FBGs) to be used in place of traditional strain and temperature sensors. These fibers can contain hundreds of sensors on a single fiber line while still allowing for real-time data acquisition.

  • Research Activity: Real-Time Deformation Shape Prediction of Lightweight UAVs

    Methods are investigated for real-time deformation shape prediction of lightweight unmanned flying aerospace structures (e.g., Helios wing), for the purposes of Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) and condition assessment. The development of such methods for monitoring and control can potentially reduce the risk of in-flight breakups and other similar catastrophic events. Results of the research will be useful in the monitoring and control of a wide variety of current as well as future generations of aircraft and aerospace structures.

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