Proceedings of the

The 33rd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2023)
3 – 8 September 2023, Southampton, UK

Constructing Health Indicators for Systems with Few Failure Instances Using Unsupervised Learning

Ingeborg de Pater1 and Mihaela Mitici2

1Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands.

2Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.


Health indicators are crucial to assess the health of complex systems. In recent years, several studies have developed data-driven health indicators using supervised learning methods. However, due to preventive maintenance, there are often not enough failure instances to train a supervised learning model, i.e., the data is unlabelled with an unknown actual Remaining Useful Life (RUL). In this paper, we therefore propose an unsupervised learning model to construct a health indicator for an aircraft system. The considered system is operated under highly-varying operating conditions. We train a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) to predict the sensor measurements from the operating conditions. We train this neural network solely with the sensor measurements of just-installed, non-degraded systems. The CNN therefore learns the normal range of the sensor measurements, given the operating conditions, for non-degraded systems only. For a degraded system, the predicted sensor measurements deviate from the actual sensor measurements. Based on the prediction errors, we construct a health indicator for the aircraft system. We apply this approach to develop a health indicator for the aircraft turbofan engines of dataset DS02 and DS06 of N-CMAPSS. The resulting health indicators have a high prognosability of 0.91 for DS02 and of 0.83 for DS06, a mean trendability of 0.86 for DS02 and of 0.87 for DS06, and a mean monotonicity of 0.31 for DS02 and of 0.33 for DS06, and can thus be used to make a reliable assessment of the system's health.

Keywords: Health indicator, Few failure instances, Unsupervised learning, Varying operating conditions, Highfrequency data, Convolutional neural network.

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