Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Novel lightning protection for lightweight aircraft

Novel lightning protection materials and installation methods were developed by EU-funded researchers for lightweight aircraft. Commercialisation of concepts could significantly reduce weight penalties and enhance safety.
Novel lightning protection for lightweight aircraft
Aerospace manufacturers and airlines are under increasingly tight weight restrictions to help curb fuel usage and resulting greenhouse gas emissions. One common way to reduce structural weight is to use composite materials, those made of more than one substance and benefiting from the individual properties.

Composites are typically lightweight and strong, often with good corrosion and fatigue properties. However, composite materials often do not provide adequate electromagnetic shielding, putting complex avionic systems – and passengers and crew – at risk.

Unfortunately, incorporating lightening protection into composite airframes is difficult. In order to overcome this problem, scientists initiated the ‘Lightning protection for structures and systems on aircraft utilising lightweight composites’ (Lightning) project. Via a combination of experimental tests and modelling, the consortium identified lightning protection solutions and installation methods to protect aircraft electronics.

Continued research including construction of test rigs and testing of mock-up systems are expected to cut in half the current weight penalty for adding lightning protection to lightweight aircraft. This will have important implications for both competitiveness and safety.

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