by Senior Airman Adarius Petty
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
8/18/2015 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada -- Non-destructive
inspection (NDI) technicians assigned to the 432nd Maintenance Squadron
at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada are among the first Airmen to receive
training on a new technology used to maintain and fix remotely piloted
aircraft and parts.
The Q-800 Portable Shearography System equipment or laser shearography
is an innovative technology used for NDI of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9
"This asset is specifically for our aircraft, and it's in testing as of
right now," said Staff Sgt. Jason Walthers, 432nd MXS NDI technician.
"There are 10 total in our inventory, each costing between $70,000 and
The system, a laser based imaging process that induces stress into a
part of an aircraft using heat which allows the thermal signature of the
part to be visible to technicians through a computer. If there are
differences in the thermal signatures, a defect will be registered since
heat is trapped within the part itself.
With Airmen's minds focused on the conservation of time and money, this
new technology allows for maintenance to be performed on location.
Previously the only option was to send the aircraft to the manufacturer
for repair, which often left aircraft out of commission for three to
Airmen partnered with NDI instructors from Hill Air Force Base, Utah to
ensure a smooth transition between inspection capabilities.
"With this new capability it now makes the process of finding
discrepancies in our aircraft pieces in-house possible opposed to the
old way of sending the parts to General Atomics," said Michael Gray, NDI
technician, Hill AFB. "This saves time."
Supporting a 24/7 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission
that allows aircraft to be airborne for hours on end sometimes becomes a
grueling maintenance task.
Airmen are now able to complete an inspection in an eight-hour shift and
although the technology presents many advantages it also offers its
share of challenges.
"The shearography is very sensitive to all elements around it, but what
makes it a great inspection process is that it's easier and faster to
find discrepancies because of its sensitivity," said Staff Sgt. Brock
Hicks, 432nd MXS, NDI technician.
This new practice is sensitive to sound, movement, and temperature which
could cause some challenges when using this new system, especially down
Equipped with a high-resolution camera, the Q-800 shearography sensor is
the lightest and smallest of its kind which would allow deployed assets
to be fixed and returned to flying status in high succession then if
they were returned to state-side bases for maintenance.
"I think the system is awesome," said Staff Sgt. Brock Hicks, 432nd MXS,
NDI section chief. "Before, we used the radiology process which isn't
as safe as shearography, so this keeps the safety of all personnel in
To ensure personnel were fully qualified, Airmen completed a two week
training course on the new NDI technology to ensure RPA assets could be
properly fixed while maintaining the safety of NDI personnel.
Although still in a testing phase at the moment the system will soon be
available for fulltime use by all NDI technicians at Creech AFB.