This study deals with the investigation of cross ply composites failure by acoustic emission (AE). Broadband AE sensors monitor the different sources of failure in coupons of this material during a tensile loading-unloading test. The cumulative number of AE activity, and other qualitative indices based on the shape of the waves, were well correlated to the sustained load. AE parameters indicate the shift of failure mechanisms within the composite as the load increases. The ultimate goal is a methodology based on NDT techniques for real time characterization of the degradation and identification of the fracture stage of advanced composite materials.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.