Airborne Electro-Mechanical Actuator Test Stand for Development of Prognostic Health Management Systems

Shared by Sriram Narasimhan, updated on Feb 11, 2011


Author(s) :
Edward Balaban, Abhinav Saxena, Sriram Narasimhan, Indranil Roychoudhury, Kai Goebel, Michael T. Koopmans

With the advent of the next generation of aerospace systems equipped with fly-by-wire controls, electromechanical actuators (EMA) are quickly becoming components critical to safety of aerospace vehicles.
Being relatively new to the field, however, EMA lack the knowledge base compared to what is accumulated for the more traditional actuator types, especially when it comes to fault detection and prognosis. Scarcity of
health monitoring data from fielded systems and prohibitive costs of carrying out real flight tests create the need to build high-fidelity system models and design affordable but realistic experimental setups.
The objective of this work is to build an EMA test stand that, unlike current laboratory stands typically weighing in excess of one metric ton, is portable enough to be easily placed aboard a wide variety of aircraft. This stand, named the FLEA (for Flyable Electro-mechanical Actuator test stand), allows testing EMA fault detection and prognosis technologies in flight environment, thus substantially increasing their technology readiness level – all without the expense of
dedicated flights, as the stand is designed to function as a non-intrusive secondary payload. No aircraft modifications are required and data can be collected during any available flight opportunity: pilot currency flights, ferry flights, or flights dedicated to other
experiments. The stand is currently equipped with a prototype version of NASA Ames developed prognostic health management system with models aimed at detecting and tracking several fault types. At this point the team has completed two test flights of the stand on US Air Force C-17 aircraft and more experiments, both laboratory and airborne, are planned for the coming months.

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