Aircraft currently fly based on coarse estimations of environment and aircraft state. Real-time measurements are traditionally restricted to laboratory environments (e.g. wind tunnel) due to the size and weight of instrumentation. NASA Ames has developed a distributed system for sensing the environmental and structural conditions of an air vehicle. It consists of many identical lightweight and low-power network modules that can connect to each other as well as to a number of different sensors of any type. The resulting network produces a robust, responsive system that can transfer structural and environmental information into actionable control objectives in real time.

(Left) Block diagram representing a sample network topology for a sensor node mesh network. (Right) Example integration of sensor nodes with aircraft structure. Initial linear layout prior to completion of additional connections for mesh redundancy is shown for clarity.

The Distributed Asynchronous Air Vehicle Sensor System (DAAVSS) consists of a modular sensor system that distributes collection and computation throughout the aircraft body. Sensor nodes are distributed throughout an air vehicle, either attached to the skin or to the substructure. These nodes are then connected to nearby sensor modules, from which they can collect data that they then either transmit to other nodes via a bidirectional data network or use to perform local computations. The internode network enables each node to communicate with more than two other neighbors and can access N nearby sensors via a data network implemented with asynchronous mesh routing.

Each sensor bus is local to the sensor node, so address space within each node’s sensor bus is distinct. The use of local computation could reduce the response time of the air vehicle and reduce overhead since sensors no longer have to be wired through the entire vehicle to the central processor and polled from this source. Instead, local networks can inter-communicate and respond to stimuli directly without having to traverse the entire network. This invention is used to efficiently spread the computation required to collect and act on environmental and structural stimuli that act on an air vehicle.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. For more information, contact the Ames Technology Transfer Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 855-627-2249.