An Integrated Product Team (IPT) led by the US Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) is manufacturing a prototype Composite Vertical Stabilizer (CVS) for the AH-64 Apache helicopter with an embedded sensor network as part of a fuselage modernization effort. The CVS with embedded sensors must carry increased flight loads, decrease operational and maintenance costs, and have greater ballistic survivability. The embedded sensor network consists of flexible, thin sensor sheets that are bonded to the inner mold line (IML) of the CVS. The sensor sheets are manufactured utilizing a low-cost and configurable inkjet printing process. The system is capable of sensing strain, temperature, vibration, and ballistic damage. A large number of sensing elements distributed over the CVS will enable continuous in-flight monitoring of structural loads and also provide greater ballistic survivability by providing the means to recognize, classify, and analyze damage as it occurs and provide useful information for safe operation in the air and effective remediation on the ground. The completed CVS will weigh 22% less than the metallic vertical stabilizer while meeting or exceeding all other structural performance requirements.
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