What are Borescopes?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2019
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Borescopes are rigid or flexible tubes that give visual access to difficult to see areas. A borescope has a lens for viewing at the top of the tube and an ocular lens, which mirrors light and instantly sends back visuals to the eyepiece. Borescopes can be fitted with cameras to capture visual data for review.

Automotive and airplane mechanics frequently use borescopes to look at small parts of cars or aircraft that are not otherwise visible without taking them apart. Since disassembling a piece of a plane or car can create more problems, borescope usage cuts out this step and diagnoses problems or determines the soundness of a particular part. Use of borescopes is particularly important for airplane mechanics, because there are many rules and requirements for safety and soundness that must be met before a plane can leave the ground.

Borescopes fitted with cameras are used in search and rescue operations. Without having to enter a dangerous area, like a caved-in mine or a well of unknown depth, rescuers can use a borescope to gain information about survivors, as well as data that determines how a rescue operation should precede. The scope gives precise measurements and can define any potential hazards in entering an area to retrieve someone or something.


In an unknown environment, a borescope's flexible tubes come in handy to negotiate any curves or changes in direction. The flexibility of the tubes can sometimes reduce the quality of images obtained. In known areas, like the inside of an engine, mechanics prefer rigid tubes because images are better, making diagnostics easier.

When choosing a borescope, both size and pixilation are important considerations. Anything under 10,000 pixels should not be considered. The norm for flexible borescopes is 15,000 to 24,000 pixels.

Size is of special consideration when selecting rigid borescopes. Objective lenses are classified by type. There are three kinds: achromatic doublets, Hopkins rods and gradient index lenses. If a borescope needs to be especially small in circumference, gradient index lenses are the best choice. Hopkins rods work well for medium spaces, and achromatic lenses are generally chosen for the largest spaces.

Small, medium and large are relative terms. A large space, for example, would measure over .18 inches (4 mm) in diameter -- so it's easy to see that borescopes are really quite small. Flexible search and rescue borescopes might have a diameter of about an inch (2.54 cm).

Borescopes in their varied applications can supply us with information that is either mundane or of supreme importance. When borescopes detect a problem with an automobile or airplane, they are instrumental in saving lives. Used in search and rescue operations, borescopes can significantly improve the chance of helping trapped and possibly injured people. This tiny invention, then, exponentially increases the quality of our lives.


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