Wireless data transfer

GE Aviation is to develop wireless data gathering and transmission technology as part of the Wireless Technologies for Novel Enhancement of Systems and Structures Serviceability (WiTNESSS) initiative.

According to GE, data transfer forms a key part of health management and test instrumentation applications on fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and engine test beds. Wireless data transfer can offer significant weight savings, simplified integration due to the absence of wires, and easier access to the data.

Simon Young, vice-president of avionics at GE’s Bishops Cleeve site, said: ‘Where ease of access to the data is concerned it is envisaged that wireless transmission has the potential of greatly reducing aircraft maintenance time by playing a crucial role in advanced prognostics and diagnostics.

‘The technical challenges of implementing wireless technology in the harsh environment of an aircraft are important. Some of these challenges have been addressed by other industries; for example, wireless data capture is increasingly employed in condition-based monitoring within many industries, specifically to optimise manufacturers’ predictive maintenance routines. WiTNESSS aims to build on what has been learned in these other industries and extend the technologies and practices into the aerospace arena.’

Supported by a £1.6m investment from the Technology Strategy Board, the WiTNESSS consortium is made up of companies including TRW Conekt, Qinetiq, QM Systems, Rolls-Royce, Airbus UK, BAE Systems, GE Aviation and AgustaWestland.

The project expects to test prototype data-gathering systems in early 2011 and will be reporting results later that year.