Australian manufacturer secures record contract for structural health technology

Australian technology company Structural Monitoring Systems (SMS) has secured its biggest deal yet with an agreement with Airbus to develop its comparative vacuum monitoring (CVM) technology for an in-flight structural health monitoring (SHM) system for the European manufacturer’s aircraft.

The Perth-based company has been discussing the deal with Airbus for some time. CVM detects and monitors structural integrity through the use of an inert sensor that adheres to the aircraft or is embedded in the fuselage, a vacuum source to apply and control a low vacuum, and a fluid flow measuring device.

The sensor can detect sub-1mm cracks in metal surfaces, measure the crack, monitor bonded surfaces and the state of bonded joints, and measure crack initiation and propagation.

SMS has worked with Airbus for four years, with the CVM technology most recently being used to test materials for the A380. CVM is being used on the full-scale structural testing programme for the A380.

The joint development agreement with Airbus, which includes licence deals, is intended to lead to an SHM system by the end of 2007, but could be accelerated by Airbus to include CVM technology in existing and new aircraft, says SMS. SHM systems promise a reduction in airframe maintenance costs and human factor influences, coupled with increased aircraft availability and structural weight saving.

The Airbus deal is the latest in a number of commercial successes for the small Australian company. SMS is already working with Boeing to have CVM approved and entered into the standard practices manual for Boeing commercial aircraft, which would allow the technology to be used by all Boeing commercial aircraft operators. Technical verification work is under way with Northwest Airlines and United Airlines in a programme funded by the US Federal Aviation Administration. CVM is already installed on two Northwest Airlines McDonnell Douglas (MDC) DC-9s.

In addition the technology has been installed on a number of military aircraft types, including Australian Army Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters, Republic of Singapore air force Aermacchi S211 jet trainers and MDC Skyhawk fighters and a US Navy Sikorsky MH53.

SMS recently secured an A$830,000 ($632,000) deal to provide CVM design solutions for the Pakistan air force’s FT jet trainers, Dassault Mirage III fighters and Lockheed Martin Hercules C-130 transport aircraft.


Source: Flight International