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I'm asking this question after doing a small research project to see if a small UAS can fly through thunderstorm and trigger lightning strikes. I've googled a bit, and all I've seen are large aircraft getting hardened against strikes.

From what I've read and looked at, all the aircraft use metallic mesh or metal skin to dissipate the heat and voltage. I'm thinking something similar could be done for for a UAS, but don't know how to analyze the system to make sure it can handle the strike.

How does one go about analyzing a structure to see if it can handle lightning strikes? Has anyone flown a fixed wing UAS through a thunderstorm to trigger lightning strikes?

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a duplicate question for numerous answers on "Static Wicks". $\endgroup$ – jwzumwalt Mar 9 '18 at 4:32
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You design your structure, as in larger aircraft, considering where the strike could potentially hit first, and where it would leave.

The rest is electrically bonding everything together, and creating a continuous electrical route from each entry point throughout the structure to the potential exit zones.

Calculating or measuring the electrical resistance throughout the paths is the way to quantify the effectiveness of the design. If it’s zero, the lightning would not hit this aircraft (or would pass through it without causing any harm). However, this conflicts with the scenario of triggering lightning strikes.

To attract lightning, you can simply put a sharp, massive metallic pole, in electrically isolated from the rest of the fuselage.

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