What is Obstruction Lighting?
Safety is incredibly important in aviation – and for good reason. Flying is not easy and is definitely not natural to humans. One of the unsung heroes of aviation safety is quite common, and yet little noticed, unless you are a pilot: obstruction lights. An obstruction light is a light used to warn aviators of navigation hazards, especially in flight paths close to airports. They are prominent on tall buildings, towers, and on high terrain that can be easily missed during periods of low visibility. Most nations highly regulate obstruction lights on structures that exceed certain heights. Obstruction lights are a part of a larger family of aviation lighting, which also includes runway lights, airplane lights, and more.
Obstruction lights are red or white – the most visible colors during the day and night. They need to be positioned for maximum visibility, ensuring that pilots approaching from any direction can see them. Modern obstruction lights are light-emitting diodes (LEDs) due to their longer lifespans and energy efficiency. Older incandescent obstruction lights were difficult to maintain as they had short lifespans and the red ones needed to be painted to ensure that they always were visible to nearby aircraft. For additional safety, many modern LEDs are compatible with night vision goggles and other sensitive flying electronics.
An obstruction light must be visible for miles and must have an independent power source to make sure it will continue to function even if the structure loses power. As a rule, the taller the structure the more obstruction lights it needs. Towers, like antennas and power transmission lines, require the most regulations for placement, intensity, and color of lights as such freestanding structures are more dangerous for low flying aircraft. The lights are positioned at varying heights to convey information about the height and shape of the obstructing structure.
Several manufacturers developed medium intensity white strobes based on LED technology to replace xenon obstruction lights. Xenon lamps are more visually impressive but require frequent replacement. The advent of reliable LEDs has led to strobe lights replacing flashers. Flashers are commonly found on structures that require daytime visibility, with red flasher lights for visibility at night. Red obstruction lights are frequently used in urban areas since it is easier for pilots to spot. White strobes, flashing constantly, may also be used in urban areas. It has been recommended that flashing white strobes should not be used in densely populated areas, as the lights usually merge with background lighting at nighttime, making it difficult for pilots to spot them, aggravating the hazard. In addition, it could disrupt the residents near the lit structure and they may complain of light trespass. In rural areas, red beacons/strobes may also be used during nighttime. White strobes are oftentimes preferred since they reduce the maintenance costs associated with painting and maintaining red obstruction lights, which is important to consider since these lights need to always be on, or you risk non-compliance fines.
Top 3 Obstruction Lighting Manufacturers
Standard aviation lighting specifications are determined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The current FAA Advisory Circular regulations require strict tolerances for obstruction lighting to promote safety. Medium intensity white strobes are used on structures that are between 200–500 feet high. If a medium white strobe is used on a structure taller than 500 feet then the structure must be painted. Common medium white strobes flash 40 times per minute, at an intensity of 20,000 candelas during the day and an intensity of 2,000 candelas at nighttime. These specifications are met by the following obstruction lighting manufacturers:
Slatercom offers aviation lighting setups that meet and exceed all standard FAA lighting configurations for the following structure classifications:
- A0-A6 low and medium intensity
- B2-B6 high intensity white only
- C2-C6 high intensity white only with AOL
- D1&D2 medium intensity white only
- E1&E2 dual medium intensity
- F2-F6 dual high intensity with AOL
In addition to providing the obstruction lighting, Slatercom can also conduct on-site lighting and energy audits, provide consulting services for fixture selection for commercial/industrial obstruction lighting projects, assist in designing layouts, installation of the obstruction lights by partnering with their large network of subcontractors, and provide post-project inspection and commissioning for FAA certification.
Dialight is a world leader in LED industrial lighting technology. They currently have over 1 million LED fixtures installed worldwide. They have offered LED products since 1971, products used to provide superior obstruction lighting for traffic control, structural towers and industrial work-sites across the globe. All Dialight obstruction lighting systems are fully FAA certified and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) compliant. Their precision patented optics ensure maximum safety with minimal ground scatter. Dialight systems offer small, light-weight flash heads for easy installation and reduced wind resistance. They also provide zero-maintenance fixtures that virtually eliminate unplanned site visits, which drastically reduces maintenance costs and non-compliance risks. They produce low, medium, and high intensity LEDs for any project that needs obstruction lighting.
Flash Technology recently purchased Carmanah Obstruction. Since 1970, Flash has produced obstruction lights, specializing in xenon as well as LED lighting products, serving telecommunications, broadcast, wind energy, airports, and public utility projects. Their service team offers turnkey solutions that include comprehensively documented site audits, installations of FAA-compliant obstruction light and monitoring systems, on-site maintenance and repairs, and lighting inspections that ensure installations meet compliance standards.
Their medium intensity and high intensity lights are durable, long-lasting obstruction lighting solutions that are FAA and ICAO compliant. They offer satellite monitoring services to inform operators if any safety-critical obstruction lights are down. Flash also offers a rugged, solar-powered line of obstruction lighting products ideal for marine, broadcast, telecommunication, construction crane projects and more.
Safety is important and obstruction lighting has helped make aviation the safest form of travel on the planet. Red or white, constant or strobed, these lights have illuminated aviation hazards for pilots for years and will continue to make flying convenient and safe for all. Compliance is important, so consult the companies above to know what obstruction lighting needs are required for your projects and remember that all certified obstruction lights must have independent power supplies.