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The global aviation industry is witnessing significant growth, with demand for passenger air travel increasing at a faster rate than the 20-year average, and an expansion of 7% in 2018. Growth in the industry is helping to fuel advancements in aviation technology, making it more efficient and safer, with fewer emissions.
Use of Sensors in Aviation Technology
A significant step forward in aviation technology has been the use of sensors. They are used to measure, monitor, and analyze data from numerous sources, as well as reporting back any potential dangers to pilots and on-ground support facilities instantly. Sensors can monitor the structural health of the plane, and enhance operations through reducing fuel usage and calculating the shortest flight paths.
One part of the aviation sensors market is gaining significant traction, and that is fiber optic sensors. It has become a popular piece of equipment because it is considered to be an intrinsically safe component, with the ability to resist harsh environmental forces.
For example, the sensors can reliably withstand intense electromagnetic interference (EMI) caused by thunderstorms and snowstorms. They can also withstand high temperatures, as well as chemical corrosion, high pressures, and high voltages.
Fiber Optic Sensors
Other than being very durable, fiber optic sensors are light and small, meaning that they can be used to replace weightier monitoring systems while maintaining high sensitivity and long-range operation. They are also easy to adapt to different applications and require almost no maintenance.
With fiber optic sensors, the critical measurements of pressure, temperature, deformation, and strain can all be monitored on one single interface.
Today, fiber optic sensors in aviation are being used for numerous applications, including hard landing detection, hydraulic temperature, and pressure monitoring, fuel tank level monitoring, and surveillance of fuel management systems. They are also replacing RVDT (Rotary Variable Differential Transformer) and LVDT (Linear Variable Differential Transformer) measures of flight controls.
In addition, fiber optic sensors are being used for strain monitoring of critical components, such as the landing gear and rotating components, like the rotor and the blades.
The sensors have also found applications in feeding back real-time measurements of weight distribution. Further to this, the sensors are able to test the structural integrity of the wings and fuselage, as well as judge the performance of the engines, the load on the landing gear, and icing on the wings.
The future is likely to see an increased focus on the use of fiber optic sensors in aircraft to improve on the safety of the industry, as well as to extend the life of the aircraft, reduce the need for lengthy and expensive maintenance procedures, and to boost the efficiency of air travel.
Benefits of Fiber Optic Sensors
The specific benefits of using these sensors to measure and report data include: reducing the weight of the craft by replacing larger systems, reducing costs (as they are cheaper than other types of equipment), and providing data that helps flights become more fuel-efficient. They can also provide measurements that are not possible with other components.
One final benefit of using fiber optic sensors over other alternatives is that they can be installed in a fraction of the time compared with their counterparts. Due to the nature of how fiber optics work, multiple sensors can be integrated within a single fiber, meaning that installation only requires one fiber to be attached to the craft and connected to the data acquisition equipment.
With their vast applications in aviation, we can expect to see fiber optic sensors continuing to make noise in the industry, as we see them enabling the sector to reach significant safety and emission reduction goals.