Long Range Ultrasonic Inspection of Aircraft Wiring
Modern jets contain 100-350 miles of electrical wiring running into every nook and cranny of the aircraft.There may be as many as 30,000 individual wires of which 5,000 are flight-critical.These wiring carries a range of services from vital avionics and communication systems through to in-flight entertainment. As the wiring ages, the wires themselves and their insulation are subject to a variety of degradation as it operate under constant change of operational conditions i.e. operate under a cold, hot or humid environment with variations in the atmospheric pressure. Operating in such conditions might create chafes, cracks, cuts, delamination or embrittlement in the insulation of the aircraft wires. The extreme conditions under which aircraft wires operate may cause failure if it becomes brittle or cracked. To date, there have been 400 reported incidents due to aircraft wiring failures. Failure of a wire or of its insulation can have disastrous consequences, in particular the loss of vital controls or communications or the possibility of fire caused by arcing (as happened in incidents of Swiss Air Flight 111 and TWA Flight 800). Therefore, there is a need for an inspection technique to improve the reliability of the aircraft wiring. NDT technology can be used to inspect aircraft wires and is regarded as the promising technology for aerospace industry to reduce its maintenance costs by 70% and can increase the system lifetime operation of aerospace systems. Consequently, reducing the need for new products, which will ultimately save cost for aviation industry. UltraHandMan aims to develop and validate for the first time, an innovative handheld and portable, advanced NDT inspection system, which can perform 100% coverage inspections of aircraft wiring in different systems to identify wiring defects. It will enable these flight critical safety inspections to be undertaken in a faster, safer and more accurate manner when compared to the existing approach, which is principally a manual, visual based inspection which requires significant labour hours and cost.
UltraHandMan project will develop a novel portable wiring inspection system based on extended long range ultrasonic testing techniques, advanced signal processing software, innovative sensor array in combination with energised handheld pulser/receiver. Flaws in the wiring will reflect ultrasound back to the sensor assembly and will be detected by the pulser/receiver. Insulation damage will be recognised by advanced signal processing and pattern recognition techniques.
UltraHandMan aims to develop and demonstrate a portable, handheld NDT inspection device, utilising Long Range Ultrasonic Testing (LRUT) capable of inspecting 100% coverage of bundled aircraft wiring systems a significant improved technique as compared to state of the art (visual inspection/complex NDT techniques). Whereas manual inspections require time to perform and the diligence of the inspector to identify where a defect has occurred. UltraHandMan will provide an instantaneous, 100% defect detection in any aircraft wiring system. This level of accuracy and reliability will provide the airline operators with a confidence that scheduled inspections will immediately identify defects (e.g. corrosion, heat damage, arcing, worn wires, broken, kinked wires etc) present and ensure that flight risk safety is wholly mitigated. This project will have direct growth impact for the consortium members in terms of productivity, competitiveness and business growth creating cumulative revenues of 12.5 million pounds with gross profit of 5.6 million pounds leading to the creation of 38 new jobs within the consortium in 5 years of post project commercialisation.
This project was co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.