AEDC exploring high-speed video for engine vibration testing analysis

  • Published
  • By Jill Pickett

Arnold Engineering Development Complex test cells and test articles can be outfitted with hundreds to thousands of instrumentation sensors that can capture data at a rate of one to more-than-150,000 samples per second.

Even with all of those measurement points, an AEDC team member is seeking to expand the analysis capabilities for engine testing.

Through a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) effort in the Aeropropulsion Ground Test Branch at Arnold Air Force Base, Seth Beaman, a Naval Air Systems Command Aeropropulsion Test Analyst assigned to AEDC is working to test high-speed camera technology for vibration analysis.

Mechanical Solutions Inc. (MSI) submitted a proposal to the SBIR program in response to an “open call” solicitation by the Air Force for defense-related dual-purpose technologies outside of areas being focused on in the SBIR program, the idea being to identify proven non-defense commercial technologies with possible Air Force applications. MSI proposed to develop a non-contact, wide-field vibration sensor for the test cell environment using motion-amplified video technology that would generate both numerical and visual output for understanding system vibration.

MSI provided the AEDC Aeropropulsion Ground Test Branch with a kit consisting of a high-speed, high-resolution camera and software for use during engine tests. Beaman first put the kit to use during an accelerated mission test in the sea-level test cell SL-3 late last year. To expand upon the knowledge gained during that test, he is utilizing the camera during engine runs in the sea-level test cell SL-1.

“The major benefit of this system is that it is portable,” Beaman said. “I can set up pretty much anywhere to see most parts of a test article, unlike engine-mounted instrumentation. This system can be used to validate engine mounted data, or analyze the cause of unexplained system vibration.”

The camera mount uses strong magnets allowing it to be mounted on most surfaces in a test cell. The main limitation in placement is the need to isolate the camera from surrounding vibration.

After a recording is made, the software allows the user to select specific vibration frequencies and amplify them in the video. The amplified video allows viewers to more easily see and understand the movement occurring in a system.

“The initial demonstrations of this technology have shown promising results,” Beaman said. “This unique capability could prove to be very useful in diagnosing or analyzing vibration issues on future test articles or in ground test support equipment.”

A Motion Amplification Camera is also being employed by the Condition-Based Maintenance team at Arnold Air Force Base to help identify the source of vibrations in equipment, such as motors and compressors. Read about that effort at