FBW12 | CANEUS Fly-by-Wireless Workshop 2012
August 24-27, 2012 | Orono, Maine, USA

Project 3 Wireless Sensors for Engine Monitoring (Wi-Engine).

Objectives: The main objective of this project is to replace the wiring harness and sensors currently used in almost all engine monitoring operations with a wireless system that reduces the wire, wire connectors, wire holds, weight, component volume, system cost, and maintenance cost. Through the implementation of a wireless system, the 99.99999% reliability and manufacturability also will be improved. To provide such capabilities, a number of sensors of varying types may be mounted on the engine, or inside the engine, to sense various physical parameters (such as, operation temperature, oil temperature, vibration, pressure, etc.) associated with engine operation. Using a network of sensors, these physical parameters can be transmitted to a central processing unit using wiring and multiple wiring harnesses for further prognostic analysis, or engine health prediction. These wiring and wiring harnesses can increase overall system weight and cost, and can reduce overall system reliability. Therefore, there is a need for a system and a method of providing various aircraft engine parameters without using wiring and multiple wiring harnesses. Wireless sensors for engine monitoring would be of great interest to all system integrators and stake holders.

However, it also introduces several challenges that have to be addressed. The overall goal for Wireless Sensors for Engine Monitoring (Wi-Engine) project is to address many unresolved system related issues; such as data communication within the Wi-Engine sensors and their communications with central control node within the aircraft. This will include the communications protocol standards, Electromagnetic (EM) wave propagation mechanisms, EM spectrum, physical wireless transmission techniques, and so on.

Furthermore, to follow-up with and support the issue of aerospace and aeronautic Frequency Spectrum allocations activities that is planned for the ITU’s World Radio communication conference 2012 (WRC-12) and WRC 2015.

Problem Statement – Need for Wireless Engines and State-of-the-art: Recently, the development of Wireless Sensors for Engine Monitoring (Wi-Engine) has become an active research area in aerospace and many interesting devices have been developed. The application of wireless technologies to more critical applications, such as aircraft engines offers the potential to greatly reduce the failure risk within the aircrafts. MEMS and SAW type of wireless devises are coming to their technological maturity for each of the sensors functions, including their high temperature requirements. Sensors require commercially viable packaging/ miniaturization, and compatibility. Both passive and active wireless concepts exist but currently do not fit within the form, fit and function of the existing sensors for engine monitoring operations. Figure 3, illustrates a typical Turbine Engine structure that exists in the market.

Figure 3: Typical Turbine Engine Structure

Currently, there are many different wireless network technologies available in the market. The goal of Wireless solution for Wireless Sensors for Engine Monitoring in this project is to investigate, devise methods and analyse current and future technologies that might be best suited solutions to reduce aircraft weight, testing process, and add total flexibility to the system by shifting from wired sensor systems to that of a wireless sensor system. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop a generic Wireless Sensors Monitoring system be used as a platform to characterize the functional requirements, operation and behaviour of wireless sensors systems within a wireless networking system. Variables include selection of target wireless sensors, transmission methods, frequencies employed, access protocols, potential prognostics solutions, and evaluation of sensors vulnerability to detrimental environmental effects (radiation, EMI, EMP, HIRF etc).

An end-to-End system networking between the wireless sensors with their central nodes, are illustrated within the Figure 2. As shown in Figure each wireless engine node includes the capability of encompassing a wide range of sensor devices as well as direct connection with the Mater node connected to all the wireless nodes within the whole wireless networking system. There might be a wide range of protocols be used for the whole network. Hence, it will be necessary to first define the physical hardware requirements of the RF band (i,e., IEEE802.11 to IEEE802.15.4 or others) then to proceed with a modular design of the remaining components of the system. Also, as there are many sensor type possibilities, a subset of common wireless sensors will need to be chosen, and then the signal conditioning circuitry for these special wireless engine sensors created to make the wireless nodes as easily adaptable to as many scenarios as possible. Also, as shown in the figure, the interconnection of multiple numbers of wireless nodes with the Mater node will have a two-tier networking operations. At the first tier, all sensors that are located at vicinity of a wireless node (Node i) will communicate via a low data rate wireless link as in a Star topology. Then, there will be small number wireless nodes as the second tier nodes that will communicate with each other and with the Master node at a higher bit rate radio links in a Mesh topology fashion.

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