NACRA Testbed executes corrosion sensor technology project

Naval Aviation Center for Rotorcraft Advancement (NACRA) Technology Demonstration and Development teams have joined industry partner Luna Innovations, Inc., to test and demonstrate integrated corrosion sensing technology.

“We estimate 90 percent of an aircraft’s total ownership cost occurs after delivery,” said Ashley Morgan, NACRA’s technology project coordinator.  “More than 30 percent of that is due to corrosion and those costs escalate as the aircraft ages.”

But more importantly, Morgan asserted, the issue is safety.

”Corrosion can alter residual strength and structural integrity,” Morgan said.

“If you can put sensors in the aircraft structure for early detection and take appropriate corrosion mitigation actions, you can decrease overall downtime and expense, not to mention add a higher degree of safety,” said NACRA’s resident materials expert Dr. Suresh Verma.

Enter NACRA’s corrosion sensor project that extends development efforts initiated through the Navy’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

“We installed a combined wired and wireless corrosion monitoring system provided by Luna with installation design provided by Wyle on our UH-1N testbed helicopter in July 2012 and have been flying it as a ‘ride-along’ with our other project work,” Morgan said. “With this technology installed, we can track environmental exposure and specific conditions at corrosion hot-spots as a function of time, using inputs from various environmental and corrosivity sensors.”

Specifically, the project measures air and surface temperatures, relative humidity, solution resistance and polarization resistance to predict aluminum corrosive activity.

Morgan said the aircraft sensors gathered and stored this environmental data that test engineers sent to Luna for analysis.

“Data from the wired sensors and the wireless sensor hub were used to classify corrosivity within the airframe and the environmental measurements were strongly correlated to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station data,” said Luna’s Dr. Fritz Friedersdorf, director of intelligence systems.

“This project and the resulting data contributed to the Air Force ordering a total of 20 of these systems for demonstration on Air Force H-60s,” Friedersdorf said.  “The first set will be installed the week of February 18, 2013. This would not have been possible without the Navy’s support and the availability of the NACRA test bed aircraft.”

The project is scheduled to fly on the NACRA testbed indefinitely.

Source: Naval Air Systems Command
Date: Feb 20, 2013