Zero Foreign Object Damage (FOD): Inlet Debris Monitoring System (IDMS)

Navy SBIR 21.2 - Topic N212-105
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Opens: May 19, 2021 - Closes: June 17, 2021 (12:00pm edt)

N212-105 TITLE: Zero Foreign Object Damage (FOD): Inlet Debris Monitoring System (IDMS)

RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML);Autonomy

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials / Processes

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Design an Inlet Debris Monitoring System (IDMS) to detect when jet engines ingest Foreign Object Damage (FOD) [Ref 1] and quantify its sensitivity to typical Navy/Marine Corps flight and environmental operating conditions.

DESCRIPTION: Foreign Object Damage (FOD) is a top engine removal driver for nearly every platform in naval aviation. Debris ingestion causes unacceptable readiness and safety levels for a variety of fixed- and rotary-wing platforms. FOD is responsible for seven Class A mishaps (i.e., an accident that leads to fatality, dismemberment, or greater than $2 million in damages) (Ref 4) and cost the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) over $400 million in the past three years. The FOD Program, which applies research to understand, quantify, and prescribe solutions to FOD that require coordination across commands and installations, projects FOD will cost the NAE > $2 billion over the next five years.

The FOD Program is developing a method for synthesizing and analyzing data from novel sensing technologies to quantify the risk of operating aircraft in an environment with a dynamic debris field. The prototype, known as the FOD System-of-Systems Approach (SOSA), enables the integration of multiple sensor suites, data logistics, data fusion, data analysis, and automation. The purpose of the FOD system is to calculate and remediate the risk of engine FOD strikes.

The FOD Program requires an on-wing, Inlet Debris Monitoring System (IDMS) capable of detecting when an engine ingests debris and particulate. The IDMS will act as feedback to the FOD SOSA to continually refine the FOD SOSA’s predictive analytical capability and improve the FOD SOSA’s ability to reduce FOD events.

Topic requirements include, but are not limited to:

  1. The design and build of a flight qualified prototype IDMS
  2. An established system interface and interface control document (ICD) for the IDMS
  3. Determination of which factors limit or affect its Probability of Detection (Pd) and Probability of False Alarm (Pfa)
  4. Quantification of how those factors limit or affect its Pd and Pfa
  5. A mathematical model to represent the IDMS’s Pd and Pfa as a function of IDMS configurable elements, environmental conditions, and FOD related variables.

Flight and environmental conditions an IDMS may experience, and thus affect a Pd and Pfa, include (*Note the following conditions are not a comprehensive list of factors):

  1. Operationally relevant environmental factors (Ref 2):
    1. Temperature
    2. Temperature distortion (steam ingestion)
    3. Humidity
    4. Rain
    5. Snow
    6. Ice
    7. Fog
    8. High and Low ambient light conditions
    9. Non-uniform airflow
    10. Dusty/Sandy conditions
    11. Non-pristine airflow consisting of oil, insects, etc. which deposit on airflow boundaries
  2. Operationally representative inlet velocities at all phases of the flight envelope:
    1. Ground maneuvers
    2. Takeoff/Descent maneuvers
    3. Flight maneuvers
  3. Operationally representative flight noise [Ref 3]:
    1. General aircraft noise
    2. Vibrations
    3. Acoustics
    4. Electromagnetic Interferences

Common examples of discrete events, consisting of both hard and soft debris, include (*Note the following materials are not a comprehensive list of FOD):

  1. Sand
  2. Bolts
  3. Nuts
  4. Concrete
  5. Carrier decking material
  6. Lock wire
  7. Pavement
  8. Plastic
  9. Cloth
  10. Organics

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of an IDMS should be flight qualified and integrated into at least one test aircraft and possess the ability to:

  1. Demonstrate the sensitivity of the IDMS prototype to detect a FOD event in a relevant Navy/Marine Corps environment that includes:
    1. Quantifiable Pd and Pfa of the prototype
    2. Identify factors that affect the Pd and Pfa
    3. Degree that each factor affects the Pd and Pfa
  2. Detect when an engine ingests debris during conditions typical of Navy/Marine Corp idle, taxi, take-off, and landing (these include inlet velocities of 0–600 ft/s (0–183 m/s)
    1. Produce a time stamped data log indicating when an engine ingests debris
    2. Tag the timestamped data log with where the engine ingests debris; for example, land-based operations could include GPS coordinates while ship-based operations could include a location on the carrier deck (the IDMS may use external data sources to achieve this objective)
  3. Integrate with the FOD Program’s SOSA
  4. Possess well-defined system interfaces with an interface control document


The IDMS should:

  1. Integrate with other inlet debris monitoring technologies.
  2. Quantify details of the FOD event such as:
    1. The physical attributes of the debris such as its type, volume, mass, density, material composition, etc.
    2. The velocity of the debris
    3. Where, within the engine, the debris strikes and/or damages
  3. Operate in all areas of the flight envelope. Detect when an engine ingests debris during typical Navy/Marine Corp flight (an MVP already includes idle, taxi, take-off, and landing).
  4. Be capable of optimizing along the following parameters:
    1. Adaptability/Modularity: The system should be able to integrate into various military and commercial aircraft.
    2. Spatial Footprint: The system should fit within an engine/airframe.
    3. Maintainability: Maintainers should be able to access and maintain the IDMS
    4. Robustness: The IDMS should not fail and create FOD itself.
    5. Safety: The IDMS should not pose a safety risk to people, including pilots, maintainers, airfield personnel, bystanders, etc.

PHASE I: Demonstrate the feasibility of the technology through a series of Technology Readiness Level (TRL) maturation events. Demonstrate the technology’s basic scientific principles. Demonstrate the feasibility of applying the technology to an IDMS by designing, testing, and validating a basic breadboard laboratory experiment. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop, demonstrate, and validate the breadboard and test it in an environment that represents the speed and particulate size/material typical of a Navy/Marine Corps environment; begin studying Pd and Pfa.

Produce a prototype system that consolidates the breadboard into an operationally representative IDMS configuration; increase the testing rigor to include representative mechanical effects such as engine acoustics and vibrations and aerodynamic effects such as temperature, pressure, and non-uniform airflow. Characterize the prototype’s performance when exposed to these mechanical and aerodynamic effects.

Refine the prototype to be worthy of flight qualification. Quantify the Pd and Pfa under varying operational and environmental conditions (see Description section for details) before exiting this stage and the IDMS does not pose a safety of flight risk to an aircraft.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Finalize the prototype for a selected Navy and/or Marine Corps aircraft. Integrate the prototype into the select aircraft and the SOSA. Support flight-testing. Work to enable the retrofit of operational aircraft with the IDMS.

FOD costs the commercial aviation industry over $2 billion per year [Ref 4] and an average of $43 million per year at major U.S. hubs. The FOD Program projects that the FOD SOSA’s risk remediation techniques, enabled by the IDMS subject to this topic, will increase commercial aircraft availability by between 15 and 30 aircraft per airfield per year and reduce cost of ownership for airlines by between $20 million and $50 million per airfield per year where the SOSA is operational.


  1. "FOD education: What is FOD?" The FOD Control Corporation (n.d.).,Facilities.%20...%205%20Sources%20for%20more%20information.%20%3E.
  2. "MIL-HDBK-310, Military handbook: Global climatic data for developing military products." United States Department of Defense, June 23, 1997.
  3. "MIL-STD-810H, Department of Defense test method standard: Environmental engineering considerations and laboratory tests." United States Department of Defense, MIL STD 810 Working Group, January 31, 2019.
  4. "Reference updated 04/28/2021 - FOD Drone Habitat and Safety (FDHS) Series Brief, March 21, 2021

KEYWORDS: FOD; IDMS; PHM; CBM; EHM; SOSA; Inlet Debris Monitoring System; Foreign Object Damage; Probability of Detection; Pd; Probability of False Alarm; Pfa


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