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Ultrasonic inspection of aircraft wiring

SAFEWIRE: Long range ultrasonic inspection of aircraft wiring


There are kilometres of wiring in modern aircrafts (~600km in an Airbus 380), carrying a range of services from power, vital avionics and communication systems through to in-flight entertainment. They are extremely difficult to inspect during routine maintenance because they are bundled into complex harnesses and pass behind structural components/bulkheads As the wiring ages, the wires and their insulation are subject to a variety of degradation. Failure of either can have disastrous consequences, in particular the loss of vital controls or communications or fire caused by arcing. A study of international aviation incidents from 1972 to 2000 found 400 to be wiring related.


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Scientific objective

Gain increased scientific understanding of the transmission of ultrasound in a bundle of multi-core cables.

Technical objectives, to develop:

  • Transducer array and clamping system capable of generating ultrasound in a bundle of cables.
  • Handheld pulser/receiver flaw detector capable of exciting the transducer array and of transmitting ultrasound along the cable bundle.
  • Software capable of controlling the pulser/receiver and of displaying the output so that the longitudinal position of any flaw can be determined.

Integration objective

A complete pre-production prototype system comprising the above components, with the above capabilities and within cost limits.

Validation objective

Prepare a safety case for submission to the European Aviation Safety Agency, which will form the basis for certification of the SAFEWIRE technology as a recognised method of wiring inspection



  • Ultrasonic transducer arrays capable of injecting ultrasound into a bundle of multi-strand cables.
  • Ultrasonic pulser/receiver with sufficient power to excite these transducers and to transmit ultrasound through the attenuative insulation of cables harnesses.
  • Inspection range of 10m. Whilst some harnesses are longer than this, this range will enable harnesses to be inspected where they pass behind structural components so are inaccessible for inspection by other means.
  • User graphical interface and defect detection software for the control of the pulser/receiver, setting up experimental/inspection parameters, and reliably detecting defects and/or features at high resolution and interpret the signal in terms of flaw size and nature.

Project Partners

  • Pi LTD
  • Marshall
  • Hortec
  • PolKom Badania
  • Brunel University London

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Project last modified 18/03/2021