MIT scientists and the Draper Laboratory are working to build aircrafts designed with failure as the guiding principle for making them safer and more durable.
According to the scientists, complex systems may operate as a whole for longer, but their individual bits and pieces degrade and wear out. These small failures, if not checked, can result in tragic failure.
The scientists developed an aircraft design approach that would let planes fly amidst failure. The approach, known as ‘multistate design approach’, enabled the researchers to establish the potential of an aircraft’s failures over its lifetime.
The design process basically involved the scientists making simulations of various ‘failure’ scenarios. For instance, they made the simulator aircraft’s tail higher and observed its performance under various scenarios of failure.
The new design approach primarily targets eliminating small failures that lead to overall collapse of systems. According to the scientists, most complex real world systems have partial failures. For instance, a properly functioning car may have a cracked rear-view mirror, or improperly functioning cylinders in the engine or a spoilt taillight.
The same goes for aircrafts, for instance spoilt sensors or improperly functioning rudders are common failures. According to the engineers, building safer aircraft will demand a shift in design approaches. Rather than design for optimal conditions, aircraft could be designed for suboptimal conditions.