Impact source localisation in aerospace composite structures

Mario Emanuele De Simone, Francesco Ciampa, Salvatore Boccardi, Michele Meo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (SciVal)
137 Downloads (Pure)


The most commonly encountered type of damage in aircraft composite structures is caused by low-velocity impacts due to foreign objects such as hail stones, tool drops and bird strikes. Often these events can cause severe internal material damage that is difficult to detect and may lead to a significant reduction of the structure's strength and fatigue life. For this reason there is an urgent need to develop structural health monitoring systems able to localise low-velocity impacts in both metallic and composite components as they occur. This article proposes a novel monitoring system for impact localisation in aluminium and composite structures, which is able to determine the impact location in real-time without a-priori knowledge of the mechanical properties of the material. This method relies on an optimal configuration of receiving sensors, which allows linearization of well-known nonlinear systems of equations for the estimation of the impact location. The proposed algorithm is based on the time of arrival identification of the elastic waves generated by the impact source using the Akaike Information Criterion. The proposed approach was demonstrated successfully on both isotropic and orthotropic materials by using a network of closely spaced surface-bonded piezoelectric transducers. The results obtained show the validity of the proposed algorithm, since the impact sources were detected with a high level of accuracy. The proposed impact detection system overcomes current limitations of other methods and can be retrofitted easily on existing aerospace structures allowing timely detection of an impact event.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125026
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number12
Early online date14 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017


  • composite materials
  • impact localisation
  • wave propagation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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