Advanced Visual Inspection of Aircraft Engine Blades

29 June 2022

Recent PhD graduate Jonas Aust demonstrates new methods to detect defects of aircraft engine blades.

  • Jonas Aust - Engine pic raw

    3D scanner in operation

Pic of Jonas Aust in front of Engine for Article

PhD graduate Jonas Aust

The UC Mechanical Engineering Department is pleased to announce the recent PhD graduation of Jonas Aust and the acceptance of his thesis, “Advanced Visual Inspection of Aircraft Engine Blades”. Jonas worked on this project under the supervision of Professor Dirk Pons and Professor Tanja Mitrovic.

Jonas’ project started in collaboration with the Christchurch Engine Center, a joint venture between Air New Zealand and Pratt & Whitney, with the goal to enhance visual inspection of engine blades. This type of inspection is vital for safe flight operations and is achieved predominately through traditional methods reliant on human operators. Jonas discussed that while these inspections are essential to flight safety, “they are tedious, highly repetitive, and prone to human error. Hence, there is a risk that defects are being missed or fully functional parts being scrappedThere was a need to improve this process and to assist the operator.”

To help overcome the limitations involved with relying solely on human visual inspection, Jonas and his team investigated advanced technologies, such as image processing, artificial intelligence software and 3D scanning for different types of inspection. These new technologies were then compared to 50 industry practitioners in their recent study, Comparative Analysis of Human Operators and Advanced Technologies in the Visual Inspection of Aero Engine Blades. Jonas summarizes, “The current performance of human operators was assessed using eye-tracking technology, and the influence factors were analysed. The human performance was then compared to the capabilities of advanced technologies including AI and 3D scanning.” The performance of these new technologies proved to be fruitful, but not without their challenges. While 3D scanning demonstrated the best results for piece-part inspection, it is not always economically viable or technically feasible, e.g. given the imaging limitations of borescope inspection.

Now that Jonas has completed his PhD, he and his team are trialing an automated defect detection software for borescope inspection that utilizes artificial intelligence. Plans are also in motion to investigate 3D scanning for piece-part inspection of  disassembled engine blades. We wish the best to Jonas and his continuing efforts to improve flight safety.


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  • Jonas Aust - 3D scanning Image

    3D scanning of compressor blade defects

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