Wireless Data Acquisition in Flight Test Instrumentation

May 30, 2016


Wireless is now available for Flight Test Instrumentation. Sensors can now be added quickly and to previously unreachable locations and for lower data rate applications.

Curtiss-Wright provides one of the most widely-installed (FTI) in the world with more flight hours than any other. We lower risk by offering proven COTS airborne data acquisition with short delivery times and tightly integrated software. Customers benefit from a solution that saves time during flight test programs. Commissioning and calibration times are reduced using specially designed software tools that simplify flight line inspections, pre-flight checks and system reconfiguration.

FTI engineers typically have limited amounts of time to install a system and often have to change or add sensors during a flight test campaign. Wiring harnesses are heavy and bulky and cost significant effort to install. Late changes in sensor requirements can be especially problematic as wiring harness may need to be removed, taken apart and reinstalled. Wireless sensors would be much easier to install and integrate into an existing system. Additionally, wireless sensors are ideal for hard to reach locations where drilling holes for wiring looms or locating a data acquisition in close proximity may be difficult.


Video Transcript for the hearing and visually impaired

Wires are a fact of life in flight test instrumentation, but installing them takes a lot of time and that’s one thing FTI engineers don’t have a lot of. Changes to system requirements are not uncommon during a program, for example adding another sensor. You may need to dismantle a wiring harness or you may not be able to install wires to a location.

Using wireless sensors allows you to:

  • Reduce effort by having to install fewer wires
  • Add new sensors quickly
  • Install sensors in previously inaccessible locations
  • Reduce the FTI mass by reducing the amount of wiring

However, wireless flight test sensors must overcome various problems to be viable:

  • Contention: Wired sensors have a dedicated link to the data acquisition unit, but when wireless, they have to contend with other sensors.
  • Coherent synchronization: It can be difficult to ensure data remains coherent in wireless compared to a wired system
  • Power: The sensors need power to transmit data, but can’t get power from the aircraft over wires
  • RE interference: Signal interference with other systems is also an issue.

Today, these problems have solutions and wireless is now a practical option for FTI. Sensors can now be added quickly and to previously unreachable locations. Wireless is especially useful to quickly add more sensors to an existing system, to reach difficult locations and for lower data rate applications.

Curtiss-Wright’s KAM/WSI/104 module is available today and connects with COTS wireless sensors to add wireless sensors to a wired system or create a dedicated wireless one. Wireless is now ready to deploy, please contact us for further information.

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