On most aircraft ice-detection systems, the sensors can’t be located right on the aerofoil surfaces that most need to be kept ice-free – the addition of a protruding sensor would ruin their aerodynamics. Now, however, UK-based GKN Aerospace has announced the new ON-WINGS system. It mounts completely flush with the skin of the aircraft, allowing it to be integrated directly onto wings, rotor blades, or anyplace else that needs to be kept sleek and free of ice.
Ice sensing is performed by optical fibers in a sensing head, that runs along the length of the surface in question. These fibers emit light, plus they measure how much of that light is reflected back to them by any ice present. Using this feedback system, they are able to determine “the precise type, severity, thickness and location of any ice as it develops.”
The sensor subsequently notifies the aircraft’s existing electro-thermal ice protection system, so it can precisely and thoroughly melt away the ice where and when needed.
“Improving the efficiency of ice protection will have positive consequences for operators of all types of aircraft,” says Rich Oldfield, GKN Technical Director. “More efficient, controlled ice protection will lower fuel consumption, increase airframe or aero-engine performance and endurance and lower maintenance needs – as well as reducing critical carbon emissions.”
The system is the end product of a European Union-funded three-year project that involved the collaboration of nine separate groups – GKN was the lead member. It was field-tested for the first time this February, on an AgustaWestland helicopter in Poland.
Source: GKN Aerospace