Sensor networks embedded on structures, such as pipes, bridges, railways, aircraft wings and fuselage, among others, are required to transfer data related to the health of the structure. This data is typically sent to a central location where it can be processed, displayed, and analyzed. Typical Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) uses embedded ultrasonic transducers exclusively for non-destructive evaluation (NDE) purposes, whereas data transfer is performed over separate wireless radio frequency (RF) links. Ultrasonic systems, however, are also effective as a communication technology, and in fact may prove to have crucial advantages over RF-based sensor networks in certain scenarios.
NASA has great interest in methods and approaches for intelligent wireless monitoring of structural health and sensing in aircrafts. Wireless communications has been identified as a promising technology that could enable aircraft health monitoring in difficult to reach locations while reducing or eliminating the weight and logistical burden of using wires for sensing.
We envision that the proposed system has many market applications in different industries such as exploration, defense, aviation, and civil and environmental engineering sectors. Other government agencies, including DoD, DOE, DOT will benefit from this technology. Wireless technologies for SHM and other applications are constantly being sought in many markets, especially those that require constant real-time monitoring of large structures.