02 Jan Fiber Optic Embedded Aerospace Structural Grid Sensory System
Fiber optics are used for so many things in our modern society, as it turns out to be a very good way to send information quickly. But did you know that fiber optics work well in security fences too? How does this work you ask? Well, the fiber optics strands are laid across a surface and looped and reconnected, so if anyone breaks the connection the wires can indicate exactly where the break is and alert the system. This may sound complicated, but it really isn’t and there are many patents explaining how this works if you do a Google Patent Search – each one refers to the others.
Now then, I propose we use such a system in aircraft structures; fuselages, wings, tails, control surfaces, wing pylons, motor mounts, landing gear, and important substructures (Cite: 1). If there is a break the system will immediately know about it. So could such a fiber optic mesh strategy work along rivet lines and ribs, stringers help prevent crashes? I believe so, you see over the years I’ve noticed lots of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airworthiness Directives (AD’s) and constantly read relevant National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports on crashes, incursions and incidents concerning commercial, corporate and private aircraft.
Now then, this might be difficult to do in older aircraft, but it would be easy to do during production. Think of the ability of such a fiber optic mesh system along the fuselage of a Boeing 737 which is notorious for having failed rivets and skin on the upper fuselage from corrosion and fatigue (Cite 2), and this isn’t taking anything away from Boeing as the Boeing 737 is one of the greatest aircraft ever built and they are still building them; The Boeing 737 MAX is backordered by over 2,000 aircraft right now – I am just using this as an example of just how valuable such a system could be for airline safety.
What about the older seaplane (Grumman G-73) that crashed out in the harbor off Miami due to structural failure and corrosion? How about older C-130s with wing box failures? (Cite: 3) How about all the old military aircraft that are well beyond their years like the Aerial Tankers, B-52s, F-15s, F-16s, A-10s? See my point here? As engineers we know where the stresses are most likely to occur and even if we build these aircraft structures for 150% of expected abuse, we still need to know when those structures have reached their limits and damage has occurred. Why tear apart and aircraft for inspection when we can know if everything is already intact?
This is the same principle with bridges, buildings in known Earthquake regions. Aircraft are often expected to fly in adverse conditions and Murphy seems to be an often unwanted co-pilot. Please consider all this and think on it.
1. “Aircraft Design Sketch Book,” published by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Burbank CA, 1940..
2. “Evaluation of Flight Data from an Airworthy Structural Health Monitoring System Integrally Embedded in an Unmanned Air Vehicle,” by I. KRESSEL, et. al., published at the 6th European Workshop on Structural Health Monitoring – Tu.4.A.4.
3. “The interaction between corrosion management and structural integrity of aging aircraft,” by A. JAYA, U. H. TIONG, and G. CLARK, Blackwell Publishing, 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2695.2011.01562.x. Published in the Journal of Fatigue & Fracture of Engineering Materials & Structures, Volume 35, Issue 1, pages 64-73, January 2012.