The future of condition based monitoring: risks of operator removal on complex platforms

Marie Oldfield, Murray McMonies, Ella Haig

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Complex systems are difficult to manage, operate and maintain. This is why we see teams of highly specialised engineers in industries such as aerospace, nuclear and subsurface. Condition based monitoring is also employed to maximise the efficiency of extensive maintenance programmes instead of using periodic maintenance. A level of automation is often required in such complex engineering platforms in order to effectively and safely manage them. Advances in Artificial Intelligence related technologies have offered greater levels of automation but this potentially pivots the weight of decision making away from the operator to the machine. Implementing AI or complex algorithms into a platform can mean that the Operators’ control over the system is diminished or removed altogether. For example, in the Boeing 737 Air Max Disaster, AI had been added to a platform and removed the operators’ control of the system. This meant that the operator could not then move outside the extremely reserved, algorithm defined, “envelope” of operation. This paper analyses the challenges of AI driven condition based monitoring where there is a potential to see similar consequences to those seen in control engineering. As the future of society becomes more about algorithm driven technology, it is prudent to ask, not only whether we should implement AI into complex systems, but how this can be achieved ethically and safely in order to reduce risk to life.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalAI in Society
Early online date1 Aug 2022
Publication statusEarly online - 1 Aug 2022


  • AI
  • condition based monitoring
  • maintenance
  • engineering
  • systems
  • interdisciplinary
  • Royal Navy


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