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Structural Health Monitoring for the Aircraft Industry

Structural health monitoring has already found many applications in various industries and become a powerful instrument. Its purpose is measurement of the aircraft constructions’ conditions.

The real-time monitoring and review of the structure’s current state provides precise data about the state of the materials and the construction itself. The data received with the help of fiber optic technology can be applied whether by specialists that are responsible for flight safety while plane preparation or by pilots during the flights. Moreover, structural health monitoring is an up-to-date technique considering the increasing number of flying machines including drones.SHM for the Aircraft Industry

Types of Structural Health Monitoring

A correctly customized SHM system tends to increase effective implementation, extend the service life of the equipment and reduce maintenance expenses.

There are two types of structural health monitoring that are applied in the design and operation of aircraft machines over many years: common structural condition monitoring that is responsible for damage determination and examination of the aircraft parts integrity, and load monitoring.

The monitoring of structure conditions and information about loads and damage location is proved to be extremely important, especially for the aerospace and aircraft industries. Usually, load monitoring is provided by measurement of the local deformations, and damage detection that is possible due to the acoustic signals of the distributed sensing systems.

FBG Sensors for Structural Health Monitoring in Aviation

To install structural health monitoring systems specialists carry out a range of calculations and estimations regarding FBGs and their integration into a process. Thanks to the factual flight data and a number of experiments, they have defined the vibration and load characteristics in aviation. This final information has been applied later for field projects.

Fiber Bragg grating sensors are particularly effective for monitoring and measurements of temperatures, pressures and strains. A variety of qualities make FBG sensors ideally suited for applications where the accuracy is important.

In addition to high accuracy, fiber Bragg grating sensors have compact sizes and light weight. These features apply both for cables and instrumentation. Moreover, they can be produced even smaller if the construction and clients require it. Therefore, FBG sensors have often been chosen as an appropriate monitoring instrument for the aviation industry as well as for various other spheres.

One more important advantage that specialists highly appreciate is the absolute explosion safety of the fiber optic sensors. This quality can provide safe engine operation even in conditions of laying cables along fuel tanks and lines.

Another issue that usually concerns aircraft specialists is susceptibility of metals to corrosion. To solve this, there is a need for monitoring of corrosion processes in real time. That’s why the development of specialized fiber optic sensors or corrosion sensor devices that are able to track its dynamics and transfer the data about it to the center plays a crucial role for aircraft construction.

Common Applications of the FBG Sensors

In aviation fiber optic sensors can be applied for measurement of different fundamental parameters that are necessary. Due to these numbers, there can be detected any appearing changes in construction. The standard FBG sensors measure temperature, pressure and strain. In aircraft engines, they can be applied in the hot and cold parts of the engine path. Fiber Bragg grating sensors for pressure and fuel consumption, vibration, and deformation at critical points can be used to evaluate their conditions even indirectly according to the deformations of the elements.

In addition to engine monitoring, FBG sensors are also applied to detect deformations of wings and fuselage parts, icing conditions, loads on the landing gear during takeoff and landing, etc. Structural health monitoring is proved to be essential, considering the wide range of details for airplanes that are made of polymer composites.

Fiber optic sensors may help specialists in detecting the problems during the flight that can be caused by difficult weather conditions. Moreover, they are able to highlight the existing problems during the creation of new aircraft or detect critical points under maneuvering modes. Both these applications are important and help in preventing huge catastrophes or at least will result in reducing their number.

All in all, structural health monitoring has made a great contribution into the aviation industry, just like in other spheres. FBG sensors are proven to be cost-effective and powerful instruments that can improve operation of modern aircraft and drones.

Optromix is a fast-growing vendor of fiber Bragg grating (FBG) product line such as fiber Bragg grating sensors, for example, FBG strain sensors, FBG interrogators and multiplexers, Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) systems, Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) systems. The company creates and supplies a broad variety of fiber optic solutions for monitoring worldwide. If you are interested in structural health monitoring systems and want to learn more, please contact us at