Quality Magazine

Assess Aircraft Health

June 29, 2010
Implementing the DICONDE format enhances aircraft structural health monitoring systems.



A key component in a structural health monitoring system for aircraft applications is nondestructive inspection (NDI) data. Much of the data generated by advanced NDI systems is in the form of 2- and 3-D data sets that utilize proprietary data formats developed by manufacturers of those systems. Having that data in a neutral data format allows data sharing and evaluation using non-legacy data analysis, processing and archival software.

NDI Data Management Issues

In certain high-value components on aircraft structures where damage-tolerant analysis is employed, certain in-service defects may be permitted. For example, in metal structures where corrosion in wing skins and planks or cracking in wing spars are detected, those areas are treated and arrested to halt further propagation. As long as the corrosion or crack size is within allowable limits, that component may return to service.

With the increased use of composite materials in aircraft structures, the most common in-service defects encountered include impact damage, cracks and delaminations. These defects may or may not be easily repaired, depending on the size of the component and location of the indications. These areas may require continuous monitoring for the life of the component.

These cases are but two examples of where NDI data records may need to be maintained and archived for the life of the aircraft. Several issues come to mind:
  • Different vendor systems may be used for data acquisition, data analysis and image processing of NDI data during the aircraft’s life.
  • Ability of these systems to efficiently and effectively archive and keep track of large amounts of NDI image data.
  • Inability to compare and share NDI data from different imaging modalities, including digital radiography, ultrasonics, eddy current, optical (visual and infrared) and others.

    What is required is a common data format for the exchange, analysis and archiving of NDI image data that is independent of proprietary vendor formats, adaptable to large amounts of data and NDI method independent. DICONDE is one such format.

    It is an evolving American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard that provides a way for nondestructive evaluation (NDE) manufacturers and users to share image data. Implementation of the DICONDE format enhances those aircraft structural health monitoring systems.


  • The Solution: DICONDE

    DICONDE is a data standard adopted by the ASTM that provides a format for nondestructive evaluation manufacturers and their customers to share image data. It is based on the American College of Radiology (ACR)/National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) standard, DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine). The DICONDE standard encompasses all NDE-specific imaging methods and technologies, such as digital radiography, ultrasonics, eddy current, visual and computed tomography.

    DICONDE is an extension of the DICOM international standard and benefits from its years of development. The ASTM standard, ASTM E-2339 “Standard Practice for Digital Imaging and Communication in Nondestructive Evaluation,” was established in 2004. According to ASTM, DICONDE is:
  • A dictionary that describes all the necessary syntax, attributes and data elements for users to acquire, store, archive, transmit and receive image data in a way that is universally compatible.
  • A universally available image data viewer, permitting pervasive and ubiquitous image data display.
  • A system that describes destinations where images may be stored.
  • A database, allowing users to subsequently search for image data, using a variety of criteria.
  • A method of communication, exploiting commonly employed networking protocol in a way that allows users to transmit and receive data through networks and the Internet.
  • A system that describes how to use optical media to archive image data.
  • A multi-faceted file format that allows users to include reports in a variety of formats.


  • Benefits with DICONDE

    Compliancy with the DICONDE data standards offers several significant benefits, including:

  • NDI users are not restricted by proprietary formats, thus protecting software investment.
  • Easily shares inspection data with internal inspectors and even customers.
  • Eliminates need for future data conversion as newer, different systems are used for acquiring data over the life of the aircraft.
  • DICONDE images can be exported to other file formats, such as JPG, TIF and BMP.
  • Simplifies data integration from other NDI information sources.
  • Enables quick search capability for finding historical inspection data.
  • Archive NDI data produced from various inspection equipment into one solution.
  • Permits sharing of NDI data from various imaging modalities including digital radiography, ultrasonics, eddy current, optical (visual and IR) and others.

    Usage of a DICONDE data standard enables the exchange, analysis and archiving of NDI image data that is independent of proprietary formats. It is adaptable for handling large quantities of data, as well as being independent of the NDI method.

    A wide range of DICONDE-compliant software is available on the market with a wide range of features and costs. Some are good if operators are just getting started with DICONDE and want to learn their way around, while others are full-featured inspection management software systems.

    The DICONDE specifications are very similar to the DICOM specifications, the main modifications being those to replace “patient” details with those for “components” details. A number of private attributes also have been added for elements not supported by existing official DICOM attributes. In some cases, software solutions designed around the DICOM standard will work with DICONDE data.

    The maintenance, distribution and archival of NDI data is one of the major components in an aircraft structural health monitoring system. The data generated by today’s advanced NDI systems create large data sets usually in proprietary data formats. This data cannot be easily shared and analyzed across a network, nor archived and retrieved for later data comparison over the life of an aircraft.

    With today’s new breed of inspection management software, there is a stable platform to manage the entire NDI process for an entire aircraft fleet. And that platform standard is DICONDE.


  • Tech Tips

  • DICONDE is a data standard adopted by the ASTM that provides a format for nondestructive evaluation (NDE) manufacturers and customers to share image data.
  • It is based on the American College of Radiology/National Electrical Manufacturers Association standard, Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine, or DICOM.
  • The DICONDE standard encompasses all NDE-specific imaging methods and technologies, such as digital radiography, ultrasonics, eddy current, visual and computed tomography.