Military vehicles could soon be fitted with BAE Systems' Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM) platform in an attempt to reduce vehicle repair time on the front line.
The group is working on a military-friendly version of IVHM to monitor parts of the vehicle's chassis, body and accessory devices. Despite being in the early stages of development, researchers are hopeful it will save the Ministry of Defence (MoD) billions of pounds a year by preventing vehicle damage and unnecessary maintenance.
Peter Foote, an executive scientist at BAE Systems, said: 'In essence, IVHM is a way of looking after platforms, vehicles and systems using an end-to-end process beginning with monitoring sensors and looking at the status of a platform, right the way through to back-office systems that use that data to manage the whole maintenance operation and the availability of the vehicles where they are needed.'
The system works by collecting data from sensors distributed on the vehicle that gather data on the condition of the vehicle's components and subsystems. On-board processors assess the vehicle's health, predict its future life and any possible deterioration.
The decision-making process is based on the 'Bayesian Belief Network', which uses mathematical calculations to reach a conclusion when faced with uncertain variables.
Further technology, called 'Sentinel', includes corrosion-sensing systems and crack detection using acoustics. Engine damage can also be detected and assessed using advanced application of radar techniques.
According to BAE Systems, the use of these systems together can reduce operating costs, increase competitiveness and help avoid potential component malfunctions.
Foote added: ‘To a greater or lesser extent IVHM is being used in industries such as haulage, where it is very closely monitoring the whereabouts of trucks and their cargo as well as the condition of the vehicles. Aerospace and defence are picking up those concepts now and trying to see how they can be used in the context of military platforms.'
Parts of the IVHM system are currently being tested on the Tornado Fighter Jet with plans to roll it out on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F35 platform once it comes into service. Foote is confident of the system's individual capabilities, however, he believes BAE’s future project of bringing together the various technologies into a coherent system will be far more challenging.
‘The fact that IVHM cuts across so many traditional engineering disciplines is a difficulty,' he said. ‘Aerospace and defence are quite conservative in nature because they need to be; there’s a lot of safety-critical systems so we need to progress very cautiously in embracing new technology. Joining a lot of systems together crosses over a lot of boundaries in engineering, which is often quite a difficult thing to do. That's why a multidisciplinary approach is so important.'
BAE Systems is working with partners including Boeing, Thales and Cranfield University to develop the various elements of the system. Foote believes that by combining expertise, IVHM could have a real impact on UK military operations within the next five to 10 years.