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Nondestructive Inspection/Evaluation (NDI/E) Probe & Aircraft Structure Coordinate Mapping



OBJECTIVE: Directly map nondestructive inspection/evaluation (point and C-scan) data with corresponding aircraft structure coordinates to allow engineering analysis and inspection data archival storage. This includes linking of the NDI inspection data to 3D volumetric data that are both acquired at the time and location of inspection (i.e. to the structure in the "as inspected" configuration). This technology advancement will improve inspection results reporting as this information will be directly linked and enable swifter maintenance and engineering actions. 

DESCRIPTION: The USAF has a need to develop a software capability to directly link the NDI/E inspection data to 3D volumetric data acquired at the time and location of inspection. This will enable the tracking of aircraft inspections as they are acquired to enable the determination that proper inspection procedures have been identified and performed as well as enabling coordinated NDI/E inspection / geometric data storage and transmittal. Inspection data captured at the inspection site will acquire 1) NDI/E tool information (Inspection data (raw data) as well as instrument meta-data and 2) Location information (aircraft coordinate information at inspection site relative to the aircraft). This effort will need to address curvature in single or complex surfaces. Initial effort could strive for single curvature surfaces but ultimately the proposal will need to propose a solution that address all typical aircraft surface curvatures (single, double, convex, concave, complex scan motions, etc.) The display system will need to be coordinated between the NDI inspection tool display and the tracking device. NDI displays are currently integrated within those devices and can be mimicked into other display devices typically (e.g. eTools laptop/tablets currently in use in the depots). This program will address the final display of these two critical pieces of information (NDI and data location tracking) with the goal of a display efficiency. Performance parameters will be assessed on accuracy and clarity of alignment of NDI results pinned to specific aircraft coordinates. This metric will aid in the downstream assessment and remediation of any defects noted in inspection results. 

PHASE I: Develop and demonstrate feasibility of using electronic algorithm-based methods to facilitate recording of tracking and nondestructive inspection (NDI) data from portable inspection systems. Illustrate how tracking data can be integrated into reporting of inspection results. Initial application will be on portable eddy current inspection processes. Note that this feasibility demonstration can assume exact location of NDI data collection is provided via alternative technology and this spatial location capability is not the subject of this solicitation. 

PHASE II: Demonstrate integration of algorithm-based methods into hand-held eddy current instruments and demonstrate capability on representative aircraft applications. Provide automated reporting that links inspection outcome to a spatial location of the inspection on a typical aircraft coordinate system where the exact spatial location of the probe is provided via an alternative technology which is not the subject of this solicitation. Automate the reporting function and illustrate feasibility of exporting raw data when requested. Access to and incorporation of USAF aircraft inspection data will be a critical component of demonstration of the system capability. 

PHASE III: Fully integrate the capability into portable nondestructive inspection systems with an initial focus on eddy current. Validate capability in an operational environment for at least three different inspection procedures. The developed capability will be relevant for hand-held inspections for commercial aviation, power, oil/gas, and other transportation industries. 


1: Structures Bulletin En-SB-08-012, Revision C, In-Service Inspection Flaw Assumptions for Metallic Structures

2:  "EVI - Eddy Current Developments Opening the Door to Advanced Sustainment Practices", C. Buynak(AFRL/RXCA), 2016 Aircraft Airworthiness & Sustainment Conference, Grapevine, TX, 21-24 April 2016.

KEYWORDS: Nondestructive Inspection, Compound Surface Curvatures, Location Tracking, Ultrasound, Eddy Current, Mapping 


Charles F. Buynak 

(937) 255-9807 

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