Engineers develop damage-detecting 'skin' for airplanes

BAE Systems Smart Skin

Modern aircraft require lots of ground checks to ensure they're safe to fly, but researchers at BAE Systems believe they've found new hi-tech way to minimize that down time. Using tens of thousands of micro-sensors, the aerospace giant has developed a new type of "smart skin" that can detect damage and report back health statistics to its operator. BAE says the experimental coating might sense wind speed, temperature, movement and strain in the same way that human skin detects and sends impulses back to the brain, reducing the need for personnel to make physical inspections on the ground. On top of that, maintenance crews could also replace parts before they become unsafe or inefficient. While its new smart skin is still very much in development, BAE reckons it can shrink its self-powered sensors down to the size of a grain of rice and then spray them onto new or existing aircraft like paint. Planes with feelings, it appears, won't just be limited to animated Disney films.