A team of engineers from the Cranfield University UK has developed a BladeSense system, which is claimed to be able to monitor and evaluate the technical condition of the helicopter rotor automatically and in real-time during the flight. This will allow you to quickly respond to different situations.
Developed in collaboration with Airbus Helicopters UK, the system was ground-tested for four hours, on an Airbus H135 helicopter with the 5m rotors operating at up to 400rpm. The data was then successfully transmitted via Wi-Fi to a ground station from specially designed instrumentation mounted on top of the rotor hub.
The BladeSense system itself is made in the format of two separate strips composed of flexible materials and filled with multiple sensors. These sensors can determine a wide range of parameters during the movement of the blades, starting from their air resistance index to the internal pressure. The strips with fiber optic sensors mounted along the length of each propeller blade.
When the helicopter flies, they measure the stress they experience and possible changes in shape. The data is transmitted to the central unit located at the top of the rotor hub. If it detects a malfunction, it will inform the pilot and ground crew. If the problem is very severe, the BladeSense system will automatically trigger the helicopter flight control system to compensate, allowing the aircraft to remain in the air until it can land safely for some time.
Besides, the system can also learn the behavior of the rotor blades or propellers. Therefore, the BladeSense system is also claimed to be able to help helicopter designers and manufacturers find the best and more durable designs (rotors and propellers).