It is increasingly important to potentiate the use of wireless communication systems on board to enable the deployment of technologies like structural health monitoring and active flow control. Such technologies can have a positive impact on the safety and performance of aircrafts, reducing costs, carbon emissions, and improving maintenance cycles. Active flow control makes use of sensor and actuators installed at key positions on the wing to reduce the turbulent airflow. Since in a commercial aircraft the skin friction drag is a major fraction of the total drag, by reducing the main source of the skin friction drag, i.e. turbulent flow, significant reduction of fuel can be achieved. Complementary, Structural Health Monitoring monitors the stress applied to the structural elements of an aircraft by means of sensors embedded on the structure itself. This technology is able to predict structural failures and monitor the fatigue of the structural elements leading to optimized maintenance and increase safety.
Nonetheless, the adoption of these technologies has been hampered by technological difficulties, as both structural health monitoring and active flow control require dense networks of sensors and actuators. As these sensor and actuator networks need to be wired to communicate with the aircraft and between them, the added mass, manufacturing and maintenance cost of the system defeats the benefits brought by it. Hence, wireless technologies, among others such as energy harvesting, need to act as enablers for the future adoption of structural health monitoring and active flow control in aircrafts.