The heads of several US Navy and Marine Corps helicopter and tilt rotor programmes see an opportunity to use data for better preventative maintenance.

However, the USMC and USN are currently limited in their ability to monitor and predict part failures within its fleet of aircraft by a variety of issues, including lack of funding, limited aircraft sensors and insufficient computing power, the programme managers said at AHS International's Annual Forum & Technology Display conference in Phoenix, Arizona on 16 May.

“Absolutely there is an interest,” said US Navy Capt Craig Grubb, who manages the MH-60 helicopter programme. “The likelihood of funding of putting something more in the aircraft then what we have today is unlikely.”

He also noted that there are limited opportunities to do prognostic, conditions based maintenance on the MH-60 fleet today due to the current placement of sensors on the aircraft.

Other programmes are not limited by sensors, but by the inability to make sense of the trove of data available to them.

“Our problem is, at least on the H-1 side, we’ve got all kinds of data; we’ve got tons of data. Our budget hasn’t supported the reduction of that data into [a] useful tool,” said David Walsh, programme manager for the UH-1. “Until we can bridge that gap or industry can help us through an automated AI system or something like that we are going to be limited in what we can do.”

The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey programme said it faces similar problems.

These issues are front and center as the Marine Corps adds its input to the Future Vertical Lift programme, said Walsh.

“That’s going to be one of our core tenants: How do we take advantage of a HUMS (Health and Use Monitoring System) or HUMS-like system?” he said, explaining the value in a hypothetical scenario: “That bearing is going to be dead in 30h, so at 25h the bearing is going to be on your doorstep. You can install it [and] you’ll be good to go.”