Lightweight structural health monitoring system

SHeMS is a collaborative project developing a lightweight structural health monitoring system for aircraft. Through the development and application of energy harvesting, acoustic emission, and acousto-ultrasonic techniques we intend to develop a product suitable for deployment onto critical aircraft components and be able to determine their structural integrity. The system will comprise of a network of independent but collaborative acoustic devices, each operating under its own power through energy harvesting and communicating wirelessly.

Reliability and safety are critical to the aerospace industry. The SHeMS project is an opportunity to make a major leap forward in these areas, by offering continuous inspection coverage for aircraft both on the ground and in flight. Existing Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) techniques, while effective, rely on taking an aircraft out of service. This downtime is a) very expensive, and b) means that there are large time periods between inspections. The continuous coverage offered by the SHeMS system will be able to identify delamination, fibre breakage, corrosion, fatigue, and impact damage faults at an earlier stage; in doing so, it will reduce the length of downtime, and facilitating safer and more effective maintenance schedules.

Further routes of exploitation include the aircraft development sector and military applications. When applied to aircraft in the development stage it will provide both the design engineers and pilots with component safety information. Similarly, up to the minute information about the structural integrity of their aircraft will be a valuable asset to military operators; pilots can have confidence in their planes and the engineers on the ground have the benefit of knowing where potential problems are ahead of time.

The project partnership pulls together expertise from highly respected research organisations and industrial experts, as well as globally operating aerospace companies. See the partners link, for more information on the members of the project consortium.

This project is partially funded by the British Technology Strategy Board. The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is an executive non-departmental public body established by the Government in 2007 and sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The activities of the TSB are jointly supported and funded by BIS and other government departments, the devolved administrations, regional development agencies and research councils. More information about the TSB is available at

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