Senior research scientist Lydia Hyde at BAE Systems has invented a design for the entire body of an aircraft to enable it to 'feel' damage or deterioration in much the same way as human skin.
When we suffer injury, we feel pain to alert us. Hyde's system will cover the whole exterior of a plane with thousands of micro-sensors, which will forewarn of problems before they get out of hand.
The sensors are designed to measure wind speed, temperature, strain and movement, and will be so small they can be sprayed onto a plane like paint. While the obvious use of the system would be for military planes, an analyst told the BBC that the innovation could prove useful "far beyond the military".
"observing how a simple sensor can be used to stop a domestic appliance overheating got me thinking about how this could be applied to my work..."
The idea came to Hyde while watching her tumble dryer. She was inspired by the sensor that is installed to prevent overheating.
She told the BBC, "observing how a simple sensor can be used to stop a domestic appliance overheating got me thinking about how this could be applied to my work and how we could replace bulky, expensive sensors with cheap, miniature, multi-functional ones."
"This in turn led to the idea that aircraft, or indeed cars and ships, could be covered by thousands of these motes creating a 'smart skin' that can sense the world around them and monitor their condition by detecting stress, heat or damage."
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