Structural health monitoring (SHM) technologies

Technical service highlights

Along with its world-class research infrastructure for structural health monitoring (SHM), NRC provides targeted expertise in damage detection and characterization, as well as in load monitoring at facilities in Ottawa and Boucherville. This knowledge is NRC's value-added, ensuring structural integrity in future aircraft, and providing both maintenance and weight savings benefits.

What we offer

NRC offers facilities, equipment and expertise for structural testing and evaluation in a broad range of loading and environmental conditions. We can provide static and cyclic load tests on everything from simple coupons to full-scale aircraft. We can also perform tests to confirm the structural integrity or to demonstrate the regulatory compliance of aerospace structures. SHM testing is carried out using the following platforms:

Damage monitoring

Uses a wing box with aluminum spars and ribs that is manufactured with interchangeable metallic spars, and metallic and composite skins. Specific procedures are developed by the NRC SHM team to grow hidden cracks emanating from holes, or sections of the skins, spars and ribs. The structure can be fatigue-loaded using a realistic aerospace spectrum. The test facility in Ottawa enables collaborators to place their SHM systems on NRC SHM testing platforms to determine the system's capabilities and reliability for identifying and quantifying damage locations in increasingly complex aerospace structures. The test facility in Boucherville has developed Integrated Ultrasonic Transducers (IUT) for SHM or predictive maintenance. The advantages of the IUT include: no coupling material is needed for ultrasounds, they can be performed at high temperatures, they are self-damping, offer a broadband and center frequency range of 2 – 20+ MHz and can perform conformal mapping on complex geometries and mechanical flexibility.

Load monitoring

Evaluates load-monitoring system capabilities using an eighteen foot simple cantilever aluminum beam to measure bending, torsion and shear loads. The load-monitoring platforms are well characterized and documented, providing realistic test conditions encountered during the service life of aerospace structures.

Damage and load monitoring

Uses instrumented research aircraft and actual aircraft structures, such as a wing of a CF188 fighter aircraft or a tail boom of a helicopter. This platform contains the most challenging realistic case scenario and requires the SHM and load monitoring systems to be of a higher technology readiness level (TRL) to identify the realistic loads and damages that can occur in this aerospace structure.

NRC researchers have access to a variety of sensors and techniques to identify and quantify damage in hot spot regions of aircraft structures. Available techniques include Surface Mountable Crack Detection Systems, Ultrasound SHM, Fiber Bragg Grating, MEMS and wireless technologies.

Surface Mountable Crack Detection System (SMCDS)

Developed by NRC, the Surface Mountable Crack Detection System (SMCDS), uses a paint-on sensor to detect damage on small- and large-scale airframe structures. The conductive nature of the SMCDS allows for the system to be interrogated using low voltage signals and minimal power either during or after completion of the flight. An installation kit has been manufactured that contains the instructions and the materials required for the installation and operation of this sensor suite.

Ultrasound SHM

NRC has access to Acellent Inc.'s Ultrasound SHM system, which consists of a network of piezoelectric actuators and sensors and uses multiple diagnostic wave types that can be generated for real-time visualization of structural changes.

Wireless technology

NRC has been integrating SHM sensors with wireless transmitters, while developing custom software and algorithms to monitor damage and loads. Sensors include strain gauges, displacement transducers, piezoelectrics, MEMS, fibre optic sensors, temperature sensors and others.

Why work with us

The NRC's Aerospace Research Centre's researchers and technical staff are recognized for their ability to design and develop test programs to meet airworthiness and space authorities' compliance standards, perform most ASTM tests, develop programs for standard and unique test requirements, and maintain links with domestic and international testing organizations. Most importantly, they deliver on time and at competitive rates.


We offer fee for service testing at competitive rates that include the support of test pilots, technical experts, research officers and engineers. Depending on the nature of a client's request, we also offer research and business opportunities that can translate into collaborative agreements or consortia work. Contact us to discuss your options and develop a customized plan to fit your technology needs.

Contact us

Business Development Team
Aerospace Research Centre