Strict regulatory standards to drive future developments in aircraft lightning protection industry
Category: #blogs |   By Saipriya Iyer |   Date: 2020-12-21  | 
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Strict regulatory standards to drive future developments in aircraft lightning protection industry

The global aircraft lightning protection industry is set to witness some interesting developments in the future, driven by the need for robust and more durable carriers for commercial and military purposes.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), lightning strikes commercial aircrafts at least once per year on average. Although the possibility of an aircraft being struck by lightning is fairly low and so is the threat to pilots, passengers, and the flight crew, aircraft manufacturers are constantly exploring ways to make carriers more reliable with efficient lightning protection materials. 

During lightning strikes, lightning protection systems offer electrical resistance to the aircraft structures, allowing the current to flow from the point of impact to some other point through the skin. Due to the presence of strict regulatory norms, aircraft makers need to constantly test airplanes for the effectiveness of these systems. This helps ensure the safety of travelers as well as the protection of sensitive equipment.

In terms of annual revenue, the global aircraft lightning protection market size is poised to cross US$3.8 billion by the end of 2026. Across the world, government and regulatory standards are playing a crucial role in ensuring that aerospace companies implement efficient systems for protection against lightning.

In February 2020, the FAA had begun lightning protection inspections of the 737 Max prior to flights. All 737 Max flights had been prohibited until the administration finished inspections pertaining to the risks posed by lightning strikes. Undoubtedly, this particular aircraft received more intense scrutinization after issues with the model in recent times.

Under the inspection, each 737 Max aircraft had undergone procedures including replacement of affected panels, fairing inspections, gasket modifications, and completion of a bond check.

Citing another instance, in June 2020, the contractor of the U.S. military’s F-35 fighter jets had to temporarily pause deliveries in order to investigate the damage on the aircraft’s lightning protection system.

Lockheed Martin had announced that its new F-35 fighter jets rolling off the production line will feature an upgraded lightning protection system by the end of 2020. The company had stated that the new modified system will resolve the issues detected earlier.

While manufacturers are constantly working on developing effective systems for lightning strike protection, a large number of research organizations are exploring different technologies to design innovative and more reliable systems.

Conventional systems typically make use of expanded metal foils on composite aircraft structures. The method is pretty effective but it increases the overall weight along with the risk of corrosion. In addition, expanded metal foils are comparatively expensive to install, maintain, and repair.

In December 2019, a team of researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory had used 3D printing to reduce the impact of lightning strikes on an aircraft. The team used to 3D printing to develop a new adhesive material which is applied on carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) in thin layers.

After a series of simultaneous lightning strikes on the protected equipment, it was observed that the material ensured minimal damage while offering uniform heat dissipation. These results indicate that the technology could be used to develop more advanced and efficient lightning protection systems in the future.

The demand for commercial as well as military carriers has increased exponentially in recent years worldwide. These trends in turn have created a significant need for low-cost, reliable, and durable aircrafts. The increasing production of passenger and military carriers will certainly bolster the aircraft lightning protection industry outlook over the next few years.  

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About Author

Saipriya Iyer    

Saipriya Iyer

A content developer by choice, Saipriya Iyer holds a rich experience portfolio of more than five years in the content creation domain. Equipped with substantial expertise across the business, technology, and finance domains, Saipriya currently pens down insightful art...

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