Mapping lightning strikes

The facts and the project

The ways in which aircraft, and their ever more sophisticated electronic systems, react to lightning strikes is a critical matter for aircraft manufacturers, and the regulatory authorities. For these sorts of measurements numerical simulation provides the ideal alternative to physical experiments which require an aircraft to be taken out of service for a lengthy period, which is expensive in time and money. Understanding the level of disruption to critical equipment during a flight is vital in developing the best protection systems. In addition, prior to the marketing of a new aircraft, the aircraft manufacturer must prove to the relevant certification authorities that all the applicable standards have been satisfied, in particular that the levels of disturbance are below the susceptibility levels for the equipment.

The results

This was the subject of the work carried out by the Université de Limoges, with Dassault Aviation, for the commercial version of the Falcon and the source of a world first in 2013, thanks to GENCI’s Ada and Jade computers: The development of a solver with the capability of modelling an entire aircraft. This exceptional tool means it is possible to map the propagation of the lightning strike through the aircraft’s wiring and the possible interference with every piece of equipment, specifically electronic. It achieved a level of performance that means it is now being run by the manufacturer on its own computing resources.


110 000 core hours on Ada (CNRS/Idris) and Jade (Cines)

Principal Investigator: Alain Reinex - Collaboration XLIM (CNRS/Université de Limoges) and Dassault Aviation