Germany’s Hella has entered the airfield lighting market with technology offering energy savings of up to 85%. Tom Allett reports.
The highly competitive airfield lighting market recently became even tougher with the arrival of Germany’s Hella. Already a major player in the auto industry market, Hella has now decided it can build a reputation in the aviation industry.
With its years of automotive experience behind it, Hella works in partnership with almost all of the well-known international car manufacturers and, specializing in intelligent light distribution, claims to the technological leader for Xenon and full-LED headlights. The company decided to enter the airfield market by developing proven LED technology because of the remarkable energy and low-maintenance cost savings it offers. Hella’s launch product − a runway centreline light called the LED-RCL L850-A − was first seen at October’s inter airport show Europe alongside Hella’s other ideas for future airfield and apron lighting solutions.
High performance LEDs commonly deliver a service life of up to 50,000 hours, meaning that they need to be replaced far less frequently than tradition halogen bulbs. This enables maintenance expenditure to be reduced by a figure of up to around 70% when compared with traditional halogen bulbs. As far as energy savings go, power consumption can be decreased by around 60% if the lamp operates at 6.6A. If used at 2.2A, the savings can be increased up to 85%, driving down electricity bills and reducing CO2 emissions (see graph opposite). Other bonuses are that LEDs do not contain potentially harmful substances like mercury or lead and, unlike halogen lamps, their brightness can be set at any level. Different colour options are available.
Hella says that a unique property regarding the design of its new runway centreline light is that it combines a low panel thickness (6.3 mm above the pavement) with only a small slope in front of the aperture (2°). The result is a flat design with fewer contact points for cleaning vehicles, snowploughs or aircraft, thereby reducing the possibility of accidental damage which often occurs during pavement cleaning. The use of shatter and scratch-proof glass helps to extend the lights’ working life, as do high temperature-resistant properties of the materials used − which is particularly important for unprotected runways that are sometimes exposed to extreme summer and winter temperatures.
Another selling point is that the new fixture can easily be adapted to existing airport infrastructures as no new leads, bases or additional components have to be installed.
To test it under real conditions, the first of Hella’s new lights was installed at Paderborn/Lippstadt, Germany, this January. The test installation, which runs through to June, will deliver important data about the light’s performance when exposed to snow or sun.
The idea of implementing LED technology for airport lighting was the brainchild of Sonja Henze, the company’s Product Manager and Head of its recently set-up Airport Lighting Division. Thanks to her experience of working at an airport for more than ten years, she realized that energy and maintenance costs at airports reach immense heights as a result of the vast amount of components required to provide safe and sufficient lighting in such an environment.
Asked how and why Hella entered such a competitive market, Ms Henze told Airports International:
“As we have learnt in the automotive industry, innovation is the key to success. It is only by launching groundbreaking and attractive products that suppliers can in the long-term secure a firm foothold on the market. Hella is fully aware of such potential and is now focused on exploiting it in order to create a more extensive product portfolio.
“Consequently, at the beginning of 2008 the family-owned company, with its headquarters located in Lippstadt, central Germany, decided to take quite an experimental step. It began making in-roads into non-automotive fields, thereby opening up a new spectrum of client target groups and, in so doing, opened-up the possibility of being able to operate more independently of the automotive industry. Nevertheless, the company intends to continue using the knowledge it has gained from its long-term experience in its well-established business areas such as lighting and electronics. We can apply this expertise in new and varied business ventures.
“The challenge of this design is to assure adequate luminous flux through the small aperture, which is made possible by a special optical system that uses reflectors, prisms and high performance LEDs.”
Of course, the importance of ecological awareness and the reduction of CO2 emissions have become major issues at airports around the world, thus boosting the significance of Hella’s new product. Ms Henze commented: “If lighting of the future is to save energy while simultaneously cutting down on CO2 emissions, then the only answer is LEDs. As we have over 20 years’ experience in this field we are confident that we can be a good partner for lighting solutions in the years ahead.
“Initial discussions with Paderborn-Lippstadt Airport were positive and their management team showed immediate interest seeing the new LED lighting solutions we had to offer.”
Asked why the company had decided to start with an in-pavement runway light rather than any other type of airfield fitting, Ms Henze added: “Market research has shown that there are several suppliers who were already offering LED in-pavement lighting for taxiways. An LED runway centerline (RCL) solution had not been introduced to the market at that point. Even today there are only a few suppliers who are able to offer a LED RCL that meets the required specifications and demands. There are several reasons for this: the high requirements in the light intensity, the colour availability of LEDs together with the fact that runway applications have to be exceptionally reliable.
“We saw a clear market entry strategy due to our long-term experiences in lighting and electronics and from the beginning of the project we were convinced that we could achieve the necessary targets by applying existing in-house automotive technology that already met the required light intensity and colour needs. This is especially true regarding the development of our small lamp which has an outer diameter of eight inches. It uses the high-power LEDs that were already implemented in car headlamps. Apart from the LEDs, the engineers at Hella have a deep understanding of the materials they use and only selected premium materials that can withstand the permanent temperature and atmospheric conditions.
“Therefore, the concept was to begin with the more demanding RCL and tackle the remaining LED in-pavement lights by introducing a modular system afterwards. We intend to launch a complete portfolio of LED runway lights as a spin-off from the RCL. Taxiway lighting will then follow shortly, since its large scope makes up a significant share in overall power consumption.
“Moreover, the higher LED life expectancy of up to 50,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours with conventional halogen lights constitutes a real advantage for customers, especially when it comes to maintenance. Consequently, the utilization of LED technology for airport runways will provide the greatest benefit for future customers”.
In reply to my question about what the company had used as its benchmarks when developing the new light, Ms Henze replied:
“”Apart from the regulatory requirements, the customers’ wishes were our point of reference. The team spent several weeks researching future customers’ demands and needs. We discussed the wishes, requirements and past problems with several German airports. This also continued during the development phase to get feedback about of the suitability of the product from potential customers.
“We did not use another product as a benchmark. Our customers’ wishes and our team’s visions were the driving force. We ended up with a light that was to be designed as being reliable, flat, energy-efficient and as easy to handle as possible for people to install. If looked at from that perspective, it is fair to say that we will be the benchmark for future products in this field”.
Hella entered the planning stage in December 2008 and a preliminary study was completed by February 2009. The real development phase started in May 2009, enabling the company to exhibit at inter airport Europe that autumn.
“Our previous experience in the automotive sector meant that we were able to take an idea and turn it into a product in less than one year”, said Ms Henze.
With regard to the costs involved in the operational trial at Paderborn-Lippstadt, Hella is responsible for all the development costs, while the funds required for the installation work are being provided by the airport itself.
During the light’s six-month test phase, it will be repeatedly examined for humidity, soiling and light intensity. If no deficiencies become apparent, it is set to remain in the runway until the end of 2010 in order to gain valuable long-term data and experience for future projects.
Paderborn-Lippstadt’s own staff will be responsible for checking that the light is working on a day-to-day basis, though Hella’s technicians will be on standby at all times to give support if needed and to analyse the status of the device. In addition to this, temperature, switch-on duration and switch-on level will be recorded regularly in the light.
Hella says that it expects to carry-out similar work projects at other airports during the coming year.
LED-Runway Centerline Light LED-RCL L850-A
- outer diameter of only eight inches
- minimal panel thickness only 6.3mm
- low rolling resistance
- reduces the potential contact surfaces for vehicles
- an optimized servicing concept for the customer
- no lens adjustment required
- tool-free prism replacement
- low wearing costs, easy handling despite electronic components)
- anti-humidity design
- transformer free LED control circuit
- state of the art LED technology
- guaranteed long-term spare part availability
- 100% compatibility with existing 6.6A series circuit
- can be adapted and extended to use in 2.2A series circuit
Further advantages of the LED-Technology
- energy savings of up to 85%
- reduction of CO2 emissions by up to 85%
- reduction of servicing costs by up to 70%