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The MQ-9B UAV has demonstrated its resistance to damage caused by lightnings. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) used its second full-scale MQ-9B to conduct successful lightning tests. The test was conducted jointly between engineers from GA-ASI and NTS Pittsfield, specializing in the development of sophisticated lightning protection systems for the aerospace industry.

MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s latest evolution of its multi-mission Predator B fleet of Remotely Piloted Aircraft. The successful completion of the lightning tests is an extremely important step towards achieving airworthiness certification in segregated airspace, according to the company website.

A scaled lightning current was injected onto the aircraft structure, simulating a direct lightning strike. The current flowed along the aircraft structure and exited from a predetermined return location. Results from this test verified the effectiveness of the lightning protection design for the MQ-9B. This full-scale test was important to confirm the interactions between the airframe structure, integrated equipment, and cabling configuration since all of these factor into the lightning protection design of the aircraft.

GA-ASI named its baseline MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian and the maritime surveillance variant is called SeaGuardian. Its development is the result of a five-year company-funded effort to deliver a UAV that can meet the stringent airworthiness certification requirements of various military and civil authorities, including the UK Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA) and the U.S. FAA.

The same lightning protection technology will be used by GA-ASI for its proposed MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling tanker for the U.S. Navy.