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November 2006 edition

Wired helmets could lighten aircraft circuitry loads

By Rod Smith

Pilots of the future could be “wired for action” with helmets that check their health while helping them fly the aircraft.

The vision should start to become a reality within five years as intensive research, including projects undertaken by scientists and engineers from BAE Systems’ Advanced Technology centre in Filton, U.K., develop and come to fruition.

The technology to ‘write’ electrical circuits directly onto surfaces is already available. It has been field tested successfully in motor racing, and scientists believe that the development of benefits for aircraft is only a matter of time.

Direct Write works by depositing electrical wires, resistors, capacitors and other electrical components in 3D onto conformable surfaces. Dr Jagjit Sidhu, principal scientist at the BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre, says: “The technology will keep the weight down on aircraft, including UAVs, by printing the electronics and eventually the sensors themselves, directly onto aircraft components. What we are doing is simplifying processes and getting rid of unnecessary wires.”

He adds: “We are working on the basic elements at present. We are looking at getting functionality into the sensors. Direct Write will increase the functionality and flexibility of existing structures and designs. Its huge range of potential applications includes the printing of clothing with sensors and display systems with moving images and logos.”

It is thought that it could be around four to five years before ....

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