Today a proliferation of sensors are attached to everything from the electricity grid, logistics networks, home appliances, and office equipment to trains, planes, and automobiles. Potentially powerful networks of sensor-laden platforms have sparked interest in the internet of things. Access to real-time data from systems during operation has the potential to deliver ultra-reliable system function in the future by enabling decision making about system use in concert with instantaneous information about system conditions. System operation based upon real-time localized sensor data played against data from networks of sensors that account for environment and interactions with other systems may have significant consequences for design, i.e., excesses in energy, material, cost, and logistics lead-time may be driven to zero.
Next generation designers have already declared a desire for zero-maintenance rotorcraft. Containing or eliminating aircraft structural fatigue may well enable desired extended periods of operation without the need for unintended or unscheduled maintenance procedures. Networks of sensor data that allow dynamic feedback to sense, detect, assess and act to preserve the integrity of the aircraft may enable the zero-mainteance vision. In this operating environment, drastic reductions in design factors-of-safety may be possible; efficiencies in operation may be augmented; and logistics excesses may be drastically impacted. The ideal in each case would be zero factor-of-safety, zero excess fuel, and zero excess parts in inventory, respectively. All this brings a new meaning to zero for future air vehicles.