Development and Experimental Testing of a Health Monitoring System of Electro-Mechanical Actuators for Small Airplanes

F. Previdi, Y. Maccarana, M. Mazzoleni, M. Scandella, G. Pispola, N. Porzi

This paper reports the preliminary results of the REPRISE (Reliable Electromechanical actuator for PRImary SurfacE with health monitoring) project, which aims to design a novel Electro-Mechanical Actuator (EMA) to be used on primary flight surfaces of small aircrafts. An important element of the actuator control system is a Health Monitoring (HM) module. This component is an algorithm able to detect anomalies in the device even if there is no evident loss of ability in pursuing its main function (position tracking). In particular, the project aim is to identify any degradation in the mechanical transmission elements, the ballscrew and other components such as bearings. Moreover, it is strongly advisable that the HM algorithm is based on a feature whose value can be easily computed and monitored during the actuator life. In this work, a large experimental activity has been carried out with the purpose of bringing the actuator close to failure, by progressive fault injection in overload operating conditions. A feature named Σ, that is, the mean of the RMS of the three phase currents (the input to the electric motor), is proposed as a parameter for HM. The effectiveness of this parameter in detecting the mechanical transmission degradation is experimentally tested. The degradation has been confirmed by visual inspection and screw thread profile measurements. In spite of this, the actuator is still able to perform position tracking in an effective way.