Human-like Skin Sensor in Airplanes could advance Aviation Safety

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The notion that the skin of an aircraft can feel is surreal, but as the below article explains sensing equipment attached to the metal exterior could add to aviation safety.

It is well known that the early aviation design “engineers” found living creatures, birds, as their flight models. Move the clock forward 50 or so years and innovation around skin occurred. The Concorde generated such high temperatures in its rare metal skin that it circulated its own fuel to cool the wings down ( Concorde Controversy, 8 Trans. Law Journal 1976, p.55, §2 ). The skin of an aircraft can be used for more.

A senior BAE research scientist was drying her clothes and she noticed that there were sensors in that machine. She transferred the concept to aircraft and recognized that the value of “sensing” that works for birds and people could contribute to aircraft. Her new design would include tiny sensors (a 1 square millimeter patch could be “sprayed” on the skin). These would register the heat and the velocity of the air flow over these points. That data would assist in the airplane maintenance by producing analytics of when repairs or maintenance may be needed. As Ms. Lydia Hyde explained: “The idea is to make platforms ‘feel’ using a skin of sensors in the same way humans or animals do.”

Sometimes the most incredible innovations derive from simple observations and basic transfer.

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