SuperHUMS sees anomalies

 - March 15, 2007, 10:59 AM

Intelligent Automation Corp. (IAC) launched its so-called SuperHUMS (health and usage monitoring system) here at Heli-Expo (Booth No. 1032).

With about 200 installations on commercial Bell helicopters and hundreds more on military rotorcraft, Intelligent Automation’s HUMS units “are not flying spectrum analyzers” explained William Lawler, Intelligent Automation cofounder and vice president of sales and marketing, “they’re a machinery diagnostic tool.”
Instead of simply recording data from many sensors at a high sample rate, which provides a huge amount of data, Intelligent Automation focuses on storing data for abnormal or out-of-parameter events that are key to analyzing maintenance and condition problems. “Nonnormal is what’s interesting,” said Lawler.

The SuperHUMS leverages modern computer hardware and Intelligent Automation’s software to speed up processing to faster than real-time, according to the company. The SuperHUMS also contains micro-electromechanical systems and GPS sensors so it can record not only engine and component data but also the particular flight regime associated with those events. This data can be used for flight operational quality assurance (FOQA) programs and, eventually, Lawler said, to analyze and possibly extend component lifetimes based on the actual flight conditions that they endure.

SuperHUMS by itself costs about $40,000 in a typical military configuration, plus installation of about two or three days. A flight-qualified USB interface allows easy downloading of data that is then sent either to Bell Helicopter’s product support department or to the Army’s condition-based monitoring program for U.S. Army Apaches, Black Hawks and Chinooks. The Apache electrical harness and HUMS box weighs about 17 pounds.

An example of an Intelligent Automation save was the case of an Army Apache in Kosovo that had a swashplate problem identified by the HUMS. The HUMS is programmable remotely, and the Army was able to “ask” the system to get more swashplate data. After visual inspections and more data-gathering flights, technicians found spalled bearings and a cracked bearing cage.

Intelligent Automation’s HUMS are all designed to process more information on board the aircraft, rather than simply spitting out raw data, according to Lawler. This reduces the amount of data that has to be transmitted for later analysis. The SuperHUMS also includes 802.11 Wi-Fi capability, so users with a secure and accessible Wi-Fi infrastructure can transmit data wirelessly.

For FOQA (flight operational quality assurance) users, a key problem is analysis of the stored data. SuperHUMS can be configured to deliver data in a variety of formats for lower cost FOQA analysis. Another useful feature is that upgrading to the SuperHUMS allows operators to retain previous data and diagnostics software, if the unit being replaced was an earlier model Intelligent Automation HUMS. The unit’s field-programmable gate array processor allows control of the SuperHUMS’ configuration, and OEMs, for example, can program the unit as needed for their aircraft configuration and usage modes. “We’re open,” Lawler said. “You can control it.”

SuperHUMS is also “edit-adjustable.” If the unit detects, say, a rotor imbalance that is causing an abnormal vibration, technicians can query the system to see multiple solutions to the problem. If the helicopter is in a remote location and the technician doesn’t have the tool to adjust the rotor blade tabs but does have weights, SuperHUMS can tell him how to solve the problem using available tools and materials.