Future Aircrafts will ‘Feel’ with ‘Smart Skin’

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Do you think airplanes of the future could possibly have feelings?  Scientists are hoping that the revolutionary concept they are working on to coat the aircraft with an outer layer, close to that of human skin will change the idea into reality.

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Engineers at BAE Systems’ Advanced Technology Center are investigating the possibility of covering a plane in thousands of micro-sensors, enabling it to “feel” or sense the world around it.  The “smart skin” would be able to feel temperature changes and monitor wear and tear to prevent problems becoming more serious.  Each aspect of its construction and operation would be available in one large ‘panorama’ of aeronautical information.  If this technology proves to be successful, the need for regular ground check-ups will decrease, will enable the plane to remain airborne for longer and improve the safety of on-board crew.  Not just only airplanes this could be used for cars and ships as well, sensing the world around them and monitoring their condition by detecting stress, heat, or damage.  Senior Research Scientist Lydia Hyde came up with the idea when she was doing her laundry and noticed her dryer used a sensor to prevent overheating.  She figured if a simple sensor could be used in household appliances why couldn’t they replace bulky, expensive sensors with cheap, miniature, multi-functional ones.

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The tiny sensors, called  ‘motes’ which could be as small as dust particles at less than 0.05mm squared could be used to create the skin.  The motes will be complete with sensors, processing, communication ability and power.  The engineers are contemplating spraying the skin on like paint because they’re so small.  Once they’re given a power source and attached to certain software the motes will be able to communicate the same way human skin sends signals to the brain.

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The researchers expect that this technology would be available for commercial use in 10 to 15 years.  Seems like a long time away but in reality it’s not too far off.  In order to achieve their goal, the scientists will have to figure out how many sensors are needed and how they should be arranged.  Eventually, our planes could literally ‘feel’ their way through the skies.





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