Rolls-Royce sets its sights on self-repairing jet engines
At this year's Singapore Airshow, Rolls-Royce launched IntelligentEngine, a new initiative aimed at developing intelligent aircraft engines that are safer or more efficient thanks to their ability to communicate with each other and their support networks. They would also learn from their own previous experience and the experience of other engines, and with technological advances, may one day even be able to repair themselves.
Modern aerospace engines are incredibly complex pieces of machinery that require a great deal of care and maintenance, and with air travel growing by leaps and bounds yearly, keeping up with this is a major problem. According to Rolls-Royce, IntelligentEngine is an extension of the company's TotalCare service, which began in the 1990s after the company recognized that selling aircraft engines was linked to the services to maintain and upgrade them.
IntelligentEngine will work towards a future where engine design, testing, and maintenance uses digital technology to further blend engines and support services. The technology will allow engines to connect to other engines, support services, and the airline. Using Big Data and machine learning, the IntelligentEngine vision involves the engine being "aware" of its environment and operating context. This will not only let it learn, but also anticipate its requirements and make changes – in response to changing weather, for example – to improve efficiency and reliability, and reduce costs and risks.
By providing continuous two-way communication with the engine and other parts of the service ecosystem, the engine would be able to deal with problems before they become apparent and to learn how to improve performance. In fact, Rolls-Royce says that, one day, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence may allow the engines of tomorrow to not only know when it needs maintenance, but to carry it out by itself.
"We are determined to pioneer the power that matters for our customers and our IntelligentEngine vision will allow us to do this, says Dominic Horwood, Rolls-Royce, Director, Customer and Services – Civil Aerospace. "We have the right people, the right skills and the right infrastructure to grasp this opportunity and deliver world-beating digital insight, helping us to deliver even greater value for our customers."
Rolls-Royce will outline further details on IntelligentEngine over the course of the year.
The video below discusses the IntelligentEngine vision.