Devices designed to prevent aircraft catastrophes

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Imagine scanning airplane parts without ever touching them, and identifying which one is about to fail before it ever happens! That plus many other devices to prevent aircraft catastrophes are now on display in Salt Lake in what is called Autotestcon 2008.

A circuit on a plane goes bad, causing a domino effect that brings the aircraft down in a disastrous crash. This new technology is all about preventing such catastrophes.

Devices designed to prevent aircraft catastrophes

Some products on the exhibit floor really stand out. After three years in the making, for the first time, a remarkable device is marketable. The sensor never touches what it's looking at, but it probes in mid-air, sensing a literal electrical halo above the circuit board and how each component is performing.

Tom Farkas, with Metrikos, Inc. said, "If you had to do this manually, and I remember doing this when I was a technician, it would take you literally at least a half hour to set up the board and then hours to probe through it, if you could do it accurately and using your hand. This does it one second per point."

Devices designed to prevent aircraft catastrophes

Another device is a sniffer that, again without ever touching, can sense vapors given off by specific components. Glen Wright, President of GMA Industries, said, "And when they sense those vapors as the failures occur, or even before the failures occur, we can identify certain integrated circuits that are bad or will be bad in the future and alert the technician to replace them before they actually fail."

How about a bundle installed on the bottom of an airliner carrying passengers or freight that scans continually for a terrorist missile. As part of the customized package, a little device both senses and disables the missile. It would scan continually while in flight and would identify an incoming missile, then, in a split second, dispatch a laser to foul up its navigational controls.

Eventually, nanotube detectors smaller than the micron scale could be installed inside or adjacent to every single component on a plane. Those then will monitor continually for potential failures or threats.


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Ed Yeates


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