The conceptual design of an aero gas turbine engine is quite complex. Just to arrive at the engine configuration, a multi-disciplinary study of aerothermodynamics, heat transfer, material technology, component design, and engine controls is needed. However, coupled with the aero engine’s super-quick data-analysis software capabilities, the present technology trends are constantly aiming at revolutionizing the aero engine industry by leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

In this context, it’s quite important to note the aero industry’s emphasis on component efficiency improvement through real-time monitoring of engine data. Emphasizing on overall engine gas path performance, the key existing technologies for these propulsion systems are steadily increasing component efficiencies through advanced diagnostics & prognostics integrated with intelligent control. However, in comparison with the integrated control system, the distributed control system with smart sensors and actuators is an advanced area of research and development. For instance, to additionally monitor vibration, mass flows, fuel properties, exhaust gas composition, gas path debris and set up sensing stations with high-operating temperature, there is an overwhelming need for new, improved sensors.

Active controlled components will mitigate challenges in:

  • Inlet flow distortion, separation and noise
  • Compressor aerodynamic losses, surge and stall
  • Combustion instabilities and uneven temperature distribution
  • Turbine aerodynamic losses and leakages
  • Noise and pollution control
  • High Cycle Fatigue
  • IR signature (for military engines)

However, just like high temperature sensors and actuators are the need of the hour, the effectiveness of active controls demonstrated in lab-scale tests should be further validated with significant R&D before implementation.

Advanced diagnostics and prognostics

Advanced model-based control architecture overcomes the limitations of state-of-the-art engine control and opens up for the potential use of virtual sensors. Here, tracking filters are engaged to adapt the engine control parameters to actual conditions and to individual engines. With Engine Health Monitoring (EHM) being a stand-alone unit in the existing scenario, the technology to integrate both control and monitoring is emerging despite the challenges in the engine certification. Even adaptive models are now opening up the possibility of adjusting the control logic that maintains desired performance regardless of engine degradation.

This amplified importance for active control of engine components and advanced diagnostic and prognostic requirements, has now in fact mandated the real-time analysis of all such data. This effort is all about replacing the after-the fact analysis with real-time analysis that drives faster and better-informed decisions with the help of IoT. For example, flight data could now be tracked in real-time instead of downloading the data after the fight is over, while sensors and actuators in the engine connected to the internet could enable immediate data transmission for analysis.

IoT captures & processes data as in simple time progression, instead of waiting to analyze it afterwards. Hence, this real-time data tracking could be used to optimize:

  • Specific Fuel Consumption (SFC)
  • Improve engine efficiency
  • Reduce maintenance costs in the long term
  • Reduce life cycle cost
  • Make minor changes to flight plans and aircraft speed to reduce flight times and fuel consumption
  • Detect an anomaly in the engine, employing right sensors and software

The road ahead for intelligent engines

All such optimizations with IoT, are slowly yet steadily revolutionizing flight efficiency and profitability. Now, with QuEST Global working as a global engineering services and solutions company enabling pioneers of this sector for more than two decades, the priorities are quite easily perceptible. Along with our sector-specific strategies, QuEST is presently focusing upon facilitating real-time monitoring of engine performance trending for fleet engines, technical Analysis Report (TAR) for aero engine components addressing design concessions and Technical Variance (TV) report for aero engine components.

Written by QuEST Global

on 27 Jun 2019