Nadarajah Narendran, Ph.D., the LRC's director of research and head of its Solid-State Lighting program, says this is one of several aviation-related projects being conducted by the LRC.
Many remote communities, such as those in Alaska, depend on air transport for business, supplies, and emergency aid. However, night landings at remote airfields are often impossible. Without adequate lighting systems (use of lit cans of fuel, snow machine headlights, etc. are common) for remote airstrips, it is difficult and often not feasible for pilots to locate an airfield and position their aircrafts for safe landings, especially in times of crisis. The problem is often caused by limited availability of electricity to power the lighting.
The Lighting Research Center, together with the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Center for General Aviation Research (CGAR), is helping to make night landings at remote airfields safer and communities more accessible. The Researchers are developing a handbook for remote airfield lighting systems that optimize performance while minimizing energy and cost. The systems will be designed to be visually effective and reliable, use minimal energy, require low maintenance, and be easy to implement.
LRC researchers are using a scale model to simulate visual conditions of airfield lighting using light-emitting diodes (LED). The model is capable of varying the LED intensity, color, flash pattern, viewing angle, and spatial arrangement of the simulated airfield lights.
Mark Rea, Ph.D., is the LRC’s director and the project's lead scientist. "We ask experimental subjects to view different lighting scenarios, locate the airfield, and determine the runway’s orientation," explains Rea. "We then measure the time it takes them, their accuracy rate, and their level of confidence that they have located the appropriate airfield and runway."
The LRC is also developing prototype airfield light fixtures, which are being used in flight tests in Alaska and North Dakota to validate laboratory results. These fixtures are placed at the corners of runways and help to confirm the optimum spectrum, intensity, flash rate, and distribution for airfield lighting.
In addition to the LRC, the project team includes the FAA, CGAR, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of North Dakota – Aerospace, and the University of Alaska. The FAA and CGAR are sponsoring the project as well.