Research Projects

Real Time Airside Infrastructure Maintenance Evaluation and Hazard Detection

Airside infrastructure maintenance requirements are typically defined

using passive sensors that detect surface phenomena only, or using

devices that require slow or stationary equipment which affect capacity

& delay and may even require NOTAM closures for in-depth

evaluations. A need exists to streamline the evaluation process to

provide real time input to aircraft operations and progressive

infrastructure maintenance planning.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Evaluation processes that use manual or autonomous systems typically use short wavelength and/or passive sensors such as the human eye, photography, cell phone sensors, or some form of LIDAR or similar systems. The short wavelength and/or passive nature of many of these systems often limits them to evaluating only surface conditions, and usage in relatively good weather conditions. By the time a distress is identified at the surface using these techniques, more significant distress internal to the structure (e.g. deeper in pavements or bridges) has often already reached a critical state, and maintenance of the distressed structure becomes a major reactionary effort instead of part of a more manageable proactive preventive or planned progressive maintenance effort. In order to measure deeper distress indicators, typical equipment used in current practice negatively impacts airside capacity and delay. In addition to these limitations, current practice requires extrapolation/correlation to a particular design/critical aircraft and/or traffic mix. This project would develop a more comprehensive, real-time evaluation system that could be implemented within existing air traffic flow parameters, thus mitigating/eliminating delay issues, enabling the evaluations to be performed on a more frequently recurring basis, and enabling better links to actual aircraft usage which reduces inaccuracies inherent in extrapolation and improves cockpit interpretation of expected response of the specific aircraft being operated by the crew. The target zero-delay approach category for the system with contemplated feasible enhancements to existing technology is upper category B to lower category C. Extension to category D is unlikely at the current state of technology, but may be feasible in the future.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The objective is to capitalize on/implement existing/emerging advanced sensing technology, and extend those technologies and analysis techniques to develop a comprehensive, real-time infrastructure evaluation system that could be ported to both cockpit annunciation and airport pavement management plans. Focus areas include pavements, subsurface & surface drainage, and more frequent/wider areal coverage of multiple airports, to include all airport categories, within state and national systems.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

Perform a literature review of the state of the practice. Identify and/or develop new and emerging sensing systems, data fusion and processing techniques, and sensor package mounting & control technologies that could be installed in approach category B or faster aircraft to be used for real time airport infrastructure evaluation in real time. The technologies to be employed must have the potential to identify systemic/internal problems of the structure and should include remote sensing components as well as direct sensing devices. It is unlikely that visible and/or IR sensing technologies alone will be capable of meeting the objectives of the project. Likewise, it is not recommended that researchers propose UAVs/drones for the airborne platform since speeds and gross weights are highly unlikely to be sufficient to achieve the objectives. A successful, implementable system must include identification of a pathway to FAA STC approval for aircraft installation(s).

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

Cost is estimated to be $600,000 for prototype proof-of-concept product. This is expected to include approximately $300,000 for sensing, data processing and equipment mounting hardware, approximately $50,000 for ground and flight test using NASA, FAA or proposer's aircraft platform, and $250,000 to cover development, direct and indirect costs.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

There is a large body of research concerning development of devices and analysis techniques to assist in proactive investigations and actions to address infrastructure health before it becomes a forensics problem. Much of that research is documented outside ACRP in reports available through NCHRP, AASHTO, USAF (ESC & OSR), USACE (e.g ERDC), and Boeing to name a few. Limitations of the current state of the practice are still evident as noted in FAA AC 150-5380-9, AC 150/5370-11B among others (e.g. AC 150/5320-6F, AC 150/5380-6C, AC 150/5380-7B, AC 150/5320-12C). Successful completion of this project will narrow those gaps noted in the literature.

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Idea No. 212