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Aston help monitor helicopter airframes using vibration data

AgustaWestland

AgustaWestland (AW) is a world-leading helicopter manufacturer, offering advanced rotorcraft systems design for both commercial and military applications.

AW is collaborating with Aston University on a forty-two month project involving a PhD student supported by EPSRC CASE funding to provide diagnostics for the condition monitoring of helicopter airframes using vibration data.

AW is working with a team of academics from Aston University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science to develop a suite of new data analysis techniques for processing continuously recorded airframe vibration data. Current helicopter vibration health monitoring systems focus on transmission systems, the techniques being developed by Aston and AW are aimed at providing more information about the condition of rotor components and airframe structures.

The team at Aston aims to create a new toolset that will support better condition diagnostics and preventative maintenance schemes for helicopter rotors and structures. This would augment existing health and usage monitoring systems, whose role is to enhance safety and contribute to reduced cost of ownership.

We hope that the partnership with Aston academics will give us access to advanced processing techniques which will ultimately increase AW's competitive advantage."


The academic supervisor on the project, Ian Nabney, Professor of Computer Science at Aston University is a member of the Non-linearity and Complexity Research Group (NCRG). The NCRG has high international visibility in the areas of pattern analysis, probabilistic methods, non-linear dynamics and the application of methods from statistical physics to the analysis of complex systems.

Daniel Wells of AW Diagnostic Systems, said of the project: “AW is continually looking for ways to enhance helicopter safety and reduce the cost and impact of maintenance by exploiting information on the condition and usage of helicopter systems. We hope that the partnership with Aston academics will give us access to advanced processing techniques which will ultimately increase AW’s competitive advantage by enhancing the reputation of AW and its products. This is also of direct interest to AW in the context of our incentivised support arrangements with some of our customers”.

Professor Ian Nabney said of the project: “This partnership will provide a unique opportunity to translate our research into practical benefit for AW. The project will give us the chance to combine the application of existing state-of-the-art methods to a novel problem and also the development of new science in multi-model probabilistic inference. It is particularly interesting because helicopters have been much less studied than fixed-wing aircraft so there are several demanding challenges for the research team.  So far we have been able to build models that can identify the flight mode (e.g. forward flight, hover) purely from the vibration data.  This is an important step towards defining normal airframe vibration conditions, then detecting deviations from normal conditions.”

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email rke@aston.ac.uk or call 0121 204 4242.