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Acoustic Reflectometry for Pitot Tube Blockage Detection

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-338
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Aircraft
Issue number1
Early online date29 Aug 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 2 Jul 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 29 Aug 2017
DatePublished (current) - Jan 2018


Experimental and numerical acoustic results for Pitot tubes are presented to explore the theoretical basis for an acoustic blockage detection system. Three Pitot-statics from two different commercial aircraft were CT scanned to determine their internal geometry, and a finite element acoustic study was performed to determine the variation between blocked and unblocked reflected acoustic waves when subjected to a sinusoidal input. To validate this, supporting experiments were conducted on the same tubes when subjected to a range of blockage types, including tape, pre-deceased insects, foam, and metal. Experimental and numerical results confirm acoustic detection of all tested blockages is feasible in a quiet environment, for both the total and static pressure measurements, but only if the pressure line forms a clean waveguide along its length. The frequency range for detection is specific to each of the two Pitot designs, but a common feature is that the blocked/unblocked variation diminishes as frequency is raised due to an increase of impedance with frequency. A current limitation of the method is that is has not yet been shown to be operable in flight.

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    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via AIAA at Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 19.6 MB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY-NC


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