The Air Force Research Laboratory is developing an innovative new tool to more effectively manage aircraft corrosion.
Researchers from the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate are developing and testing a device that could help pre-emptively predict corrosive environmental conditions before they can start causing damage to valuable assets. Called the WISE-MP, which stands for Weather Instrumentation and Specialized Environmental Monitoring Platform, the device can measure conditions that can be detrimental to aircraft, such as pollutants, salt, and moisture, to name a few.
The prototype device, which consists of a gas monitor, weather sensor, chloride monitor, and control box mounted on a sturdy aluminum frame, occupies a small footprint. It is portable, durable, and waterproof, with easy access to components. The platform is low-maintenance, requiring only occasional filter changes and minor adjustments. The WISE-MP control unit stores and transmits data for remote monitoring, and data can be accessed on-site as well.
“It is a complete sensing platform that can provide relevant environmental data for installations where aircraft are housed,” said AFRL senior materials engineer Dr. Chad Hunter.
Knowing the concentrations of potential corrosive factors in a given area can give aircraft maintainers a leg up in understanding how to preventively treat and monitor aircraft and other assets that are based at a given location. Anticipating corrosive conditions before they can have a detrimental effect can lead to significant cost savings and less aircraft downtime.
Although the WISE-MP platform is in the early stages of development, Hunter says it holds a lot of promise for aircraft maintainers.
“This system is designed to allow maintainers to collect data to better understand how corrosive the environmental conditions are in a localized environment, and that data will enable more effective corrosion maintenance,” said Hunter. He added that maintainers can use this knowledge to modify maintenance schedules or to take additional preventive measures.
A WISE-MP prototype was recently constructed and deployed for initial testing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where it will be measuring gaseous pollutants, salt concentration, temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction, and solar radiation for several months. After monitoring its performance during this test phase, AFRL researchers will then evaluate the system at the Naval Research Laboratory in Key West, Florida, where it will collect data in the region’s corrosive seaside environment.
According to Hunter, the research team hopes to deploy units to other military installations for further testing and eventual operational use. It is the hope that in the next few years, an initial basic platform will be in use at a number of military bases.
“Our goal is to provide a durable and easily-deployable sensing platform that can provide an extra measure of protection for our valuable assets,” Hunter said.