Why Planes Could Someday Get 'Human-Like' Skin

BAE is developing microsensors that act like skin to detect trouble
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2014 9:08 AM CDT
Why Planes Could Someday Get 'Human-Like' Skin
File photo of a Boeing 757 taking off in Tampa, Fla.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

Good news for those who are terrified of flying. Aircraft may be a whole lot smarter soon, thanks to a human-like skin developed by BAE Systems in the UK. The smart skin is really a layer of microsensors capable of detecting, the way human skin can, things like external temperatures, winds, strain, and damage to help pilots deal with problems before they become catastrophic. And while the British defense contractor is developing the technology with the military in mind, one analyst tells the BBC it has implications "far beyond the military."

Lead researcher Lydia Hyde says she got the idea while doing laundry—her dryer is equipped with a sensor that prevents it from overheating, she tells the Daily Star. So why not apply tiny sensors to aircraft to detect a wide range of important metrics? The sensors are so small, it turns out, that they might be able to be sprayed onto existing aircraft like paint. Information would then be sent to the pilot detailing the status of the plane and, if comprehensive enough, the system may render routine maintenance checks moot given the skin would act as a round-the-clock check. (Speaking of smart surfaces, check out what this newspaper can do.)

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