Rotorcraft such as the Navy’s CH-53 series experience a huge range of operating scenarios, environments, and stresses throughout their lifetime. As with other rotorcraft, current maintenance practices are based on frequent physical inspections and removal of any component which has passed its flight-hour use threshold; such maintenance work means that the maintenance for rotorcraft costs many thousands of dollars per flight hour. In order to prevent in-flight failures, such components are always designed with huge safety margins, and their flight-hour usage is based on assuming the worst-case scenarios. Ideally, a method would exist whereby the actual condition of key components could be monitored so that they could be used to virtually all of their operational life, and where any unexpected problems with the components could be detected as soon as it began.

This is the purpose of IEM’s patent-pending ultra-small IntelliPenny™ wireless sensor module. Literally the size and shape of a penny, the IntelliPenny™ can be affixed to virtually any rotorcraft component to measure the stresses experienced by that component at thousands of measurements per second, thus capturing even high-speed transient strains; well-known strain-based lifetime computation techniques can then be used to precisely determine the remaining component lifetime. This allows drastic reduction in inspection hours and improved usage of components.