Air Force Featured Stories

AEDC Spark Tank: Imager enhances leak detection, electrical inspection capabilities

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks
  • Arnold Engineering Development Complex Public Affairs

The Condition-Based Maintenance team at Arnold Air Force Base can now see the whole picture when conducting leak checks and electrical inspections.

The group obtained an acoustic imager to identify leaks in compressed air, gas and vacuum systems. It also reveals the locations of electrical partial discharge, a situation that if left unchecked, could result in system failure and power loss and potentially pose a safety hazard.


This tool is among the seven projects receiving Arnold Engineering Development Complex Innovation Grant funding through the 2023 AEDC Spark Tank program. The Spark Tank, which was open to military, Defense Department civilians and contractors across all AEDC units, allowed members of the AEDC workforce to propose suggestions for improving AEDC processes, products and test capabilities. Those awarded funding were notified earlier this year.

The acoustic imager will be owned and operated by the CBM group, but its use can be provided as a service to any area on Arnold AFB, headquarters of AEDC.

Before acquiring the imager, CBM personnel relied solely upon ultrasound equipment to detect leaks and electrical faults. It is used to detect high frequency sound of 20Khz and above, or ultrasound. Leaks and electrical emit ultrasound that can be picked up on the equipment.

Wayne Horton, ultrasound lead at Arnold AFB, said the ultrasound tool is effective, as it lets the user know an issue exists, but it does not provide a precise location of where the problem is occurring.

“Our current equipment does well detecting ultrasound but has limitations when it comes to pinpointing exactly where the issue is, especially in hard-to-reach areas,” Horton said.

Without the acoustic imager, CBM personnel were required to “walk down” detected leaks to assess where they were occurring. With the imager in hand, staff are no longer relegated to relying exclusively upon the ultrasound detector. Horton said this will greatly reduce the time spent seeking leaks and on the electrical inspection process.

The ultrasound and imager will be used in conjunction with one another to optimize issue detection. The imager utilizes technology which enables the user to see the exact location of the ultrasound on a digital image displayed on the device. It can also determine the distance, size and decibel level of a leak.

“The acoustic imager will be used along with our current equipment and will enhance our ability to pinpoint where the leak or electrical anomaly is coming from,” Horton said.

Visuals can also be shared from the imager to help better facilitate repair work.

“Once a leak or electrical anomaly is detected, the information can be transferred into a reporting tool that can be used to convey where repairs need to be made,” Horton said.