Quality Magazine

Imaging Technology Selected for Bell Helicopter FAA Joint Research Project

March 12, 2010

BELTSVILLE, MD - Imperium Inc., developer and manufacturer of ultrasound imaging cameras for nondestructive inspection announced that the company’s Acoustocam i600, a handheld portable camera device, has been selected by Bell Helicopter as part of their joint program with the FAA to develop inspection technology and techniques to address maintenance concerns due to the growing usage of composite materials in structural applications for modern rotorcraft and fixed wing aircraft.

"Imperium’s smaller, rugged, and portable ultrasonic imaging tool is an innovative technology that we believe may provide a solution to rapid inspection of composite components for damage and manufacturing flaws,” says Jeffrey Nissen, program manager and principle investigator for the R&D project at Bell Helicopter. “We have a good relationship with Imperium and are looking forward to working together to develop inspection technology for future composite aircraft maintenance."

Nissen is leading the FAA research project and has selected the Imperium Acoustocam for the FAA program specifically to address composite inspection concerns. During their development effort Bell will be researching Imperium’s technology as well as several other promising technologies to determine suitability as a rapid inspection device which enables minimally trained operators to make faster, more accurate maintenance decisions, and with greater confidence. The developed technology will have application to Bell composite rotorcraft such as the newly certified Bell 429, 407, 412 and Bell/Agusta 609 as well as fixed wing composite aircraft.

Bob Lasser, president and chief executive officer of Imperium says, ”This program is extremely important as the aerospace industry migrates more and more toward the use of composite structures. Our powerful imaging technology quickly identifies and detects problems instantly, thereby assisting maintenance crew of any level to report their findings with accuracy.”

The FAA funded research titled ‘Nondestructive Inspection Research of Composite Materials Used on the Commercial Fleet’ was initiated due to the increased usage of composite structures in both commercial and general aviation aircraft. By the nature of their fabrication, composites pose new and unique challenges to aviation inspectors. As their usage continues to expand from secondary to primary structures, improved nondestructive inspection methods will be required to better detect and characterize anomalies in these materials such as due to impacts and manufacturing flaws.