Intelligent Gearbox for Endurance Advanced Rotorcraft (iGear) is developing a multi-sensor health monitoring system for the lateral gearboxes of the Airbus Racer helicopter, providing real time information for maintenance actions.
  • DatesMarch 2017 - March 2019
  • SponsorClean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
  • Funded€500,000 (€200,000 for Cranfield)
  • PartnersActive Space Technologies (Consortium coordinator), Cranfield University (Consortium partner), Avio Aero (Topic Manager)

The new Airbus RACER rotorcraft design combines a traditional horizontally mounted rotor with additional forward facing rotors on its wings for improved propulsion. Avio Aero is working with Airbus in the design of the transmission system of this rotorcraft.

In iGear we are studying the special characteristics of this gearbox in order to develop and test a specific condition monitoring tool for this unique transmission system. Such a tool will use advanced algorithms for feature extraction and data fusion to provide real time information about the health condition of the machine based on vibration, acoustic emission and oil characteristics measurements. This information will allow the operators to plan more effective maintenance strategies while increasing the safety of the aircraft.

Impact and findings

The iGear system will push the technology of gearbox monitoring to a new level for extreme-environment, miniaturized solutions not accessible till now. The multi-sensor monitoring approach together with advanced data fusion and rule-based diagnosis will provide sensitive and reliable indication of the machine condition. Those new developments will allow the manufacturers to confidently monitor their equipment in real-time, improving its operation and reliability.

From a technical point of view, the project is expected to contribute to the development of knowledge in the design and manufacturing of sensing, data acquisition, and data mining. These advances are required by the aeronautical industry to improve its competitiveness regarding sensing, deeper understanding and measurement of engines and gearboxes behaviour, and optimization of engine and gearbox components.

Our partners

Consortium coordinator: Active Space Technologies

Active Space Technologies is a European based company operating in space, aeronautics and industry, offering bespoke electro-mechanical systems for extreme harsh environments, such as instruments and mechanisms, actuators and wireless sensing systems qualified for high-g, high temperature radiation environments.

Active Space Technologies’ main competence in aeronautics is hardware for Condition Based Maintenance, based on DO254 standards:

  • Electronics & Sensors (high temperature and high accelerations electronics and sensors)
  • Wireless Slip Rings (slip rings, wireless comms, energy harvesting)

The company also provides Engineering and Scientific services, including design and onsite service support, in the following areas:

  • Mechanical engineering (thermal and structural analysis, fluid dynamics, design, high precision manufacturing, integration, and testing)
  • Electronics engineering (automation, embedded systems, digital control)

Management support services for technology transfer and development projects (project management, quality assurance, systems engineering, project coordination).

Topic Manager: Avio Aero

Avio Aero is a GE Aviation business that designs, manufactures and maintains propulsion systems for civil and military aviation. It is the center of excellence for the entire General Electric group in the field of mechanical transmissions and low-pressure turbines. It employs more than 4,200 people at its headquarters at Rivalta di Torino, where its largest production plant is also located, and at its other major plants in Brindisi and Pomigliano d'Arco (Naples). Abroad, it has a plant and a test center in Poland. Founded in 1908, the company has overcome many technological challenges in over a century of history. Continuous investments in research and development and an established network of relationships with leading universities and international research centers have enabled Avio Aero to develop technological and manufacturing excellence recognized across the globe: an achievement borne out by a range of collaborative partnerships with key operators in the global aviation industry.

Progress update

  • Current state of the art in Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) for helicopter has been reviewed.
  • An array of sensors based on vibration, acoustic emission, particles in lubricant, oil quality and temperature have been selected.
  • A preliminary version of the multi-sensor feature extraction algorithm has been developed.
  • The complete hardware system design for performing sensors signal conditioning and acquisition, as well as for data processing, visualization and storage is being finished.
  • A dedicated gearbox rig is being designed and built, initial tests will begin in autumn 2018.

Funding

This project has received funding from the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 738144.