Nowadays, lightning strikes are no longer a hazard, but they can cause damage. The ILDAS sensor system (In-flight Lightning Damage Assessment System) detects and analyses lightning strikes. In 2011, ILDAS was tested on board an Airbus A340 test aircraft, which was hit by lightning dozens of times during test flights.
ILDAS was a European Sixth Framework research project led by NLR in collaboration with the European aircraft industry. In that context, the sensor system was tested on the ground in an Airbus A320 in 2009. After the system was installed, the jetliner was targeted with artificially generated bolts of lightning. The tests were successful. ILDAS was found to be feasible and Airbus subsequently commissioned NLR to develop the sensor system further, as ILDAS-2.
ILDAS-2 consists of 12 sensors, all mounted on the inside of the hull, with corresponding computer systems. ILDAS-2 is initially intended to back up the test regime of the next-generation Airbus A350 XWB. To this end, the sensors have to be built into the Airbus A380 flying testbed that is used to test the A350 engine.
Aircraft manufacturers can use the acquired insight into the interaction between lightning and aircraft to improve aircraft construction. Moreover, a future ILDAS-2 production version can relay data about a strike directly to a maintenance centre on the ground. This is useful for maintenance scheduling purposes. New ILDAS sensors are now also capable of registering x-rays, as recent scientific research has revealed that severe bolts of lightning emit x-rays.