NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 A2.09-9732
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Flight Sensors and Airborne Instruments for Flight Research
PROPOSAL TITLE: Point Coupled Displacement Sensor

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Engineering Acoustics
933 Lewis Drive Suite C
Winter Park, FL 32789-0000

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Bruce J. P. Mortimer
933 Lewis Drive Suite C
Winter Park, FL 32789-2261

Real-time displacement measurement techniques are needed to acquire aerodynamic and structural system characteristics in flight. This proposal describes the development of a new type of position sensor which we have termed a Point Coupled Sensor (PCS). This sensor is able to detect the position of a target, typically a small piece of metal or magnetic material, in one or two dimensions. The one dimensional (1-D) or linear embodiment of the sensor is similar in function to the well-known linear variable differential transformer (LVDT). In this configuration, it is anticipated that the PCS will provide similar measurement accuracies, but with significant cost, size and weight reduction. This makes the PCS especially attractive for use in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) and other applications where size and weight are important. The PCS approach can also be implemented as a two-dimensional (2-D) sensor, which may facilitate the measurement of complex surfaces, and holds promise for many new and evolving UAV and aircraft applications such as aeroelastic wings and measuring the position of swept surfaces or moving panels. The PCS two-dimensional concept also offers the potential to introduce novel surface sensor measurement functionality and could conceivably be fabricated within the composite aircraft structure.

Displacement sensing is prevalent on all aircraft platforms. Various sensors are applied to a multitude of functions including: Flight controls, control surfaces and actuators, landing gear, munitions, speed brake doors, brake and steering systems, fuel and engine controls, environmental controls. The PCS technology described in this proposal is especially well suited to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Space Flight where weight is of primary concern.

Second to temperature measurement, displacement is the most widely measured analogue parameter in both industrial and laboratory settings. Current LVDT sensors are a mature technology in widespread in use, with a market in the USA on the order of US$ 250 million p.a. The proposed PCS technology is believed to be superior to LVDT's in every respect and further offers the potential for flexible and planar configurations. As such, it could replace existing technology in a variety of commercial and industrial applications such as industrial tooling and measurement, and a variety of scientific devices, as well as extend capability into new applications demanding compact, lightweight, high accuracy displacement sensors.