Leonardo’s Dual Mode LED Search and Landing Light Allows Operators to See Without Being Seen

Leonardo is among the top ten global players in aerospace, defence and security and Italy’s main industrial company. In a recent development, the company recognized a gap in the market for a steerable helicopter landing light that could operate in both visible and infrared (IR) spectrums, changing from mode one to the other at the flick of a switch. In this article, we outline the background behind the innovative new system, delve into the detail on the product itself and highlight some of Leonardo’s experience in the commercial electronics field.

The Requirement

All helicopters require landing lights for safety and some require them for specific operations. At night, shining a landing light onto the ground allows you to touch down without running into any dangerous surprises. The same light can also be used to visually search the helicopter’s environment, for example for a search-and-rescue (SAR) mission.

However, there are some occasions when a bright visible light isn’t suitable. For example, if you’re conducting a covert military operation, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself by using a visible beam of light to conduct searches.

This is why it was military operators who first generated the requirement for a search and landing light that was not restricted to the visible spectrum. Leonardo, a company which engages with customers on a regular basis to understand their needs, quickly picked up on this requirement. Seeing this as a clear gap in the market that had not been filled by any other company, Leonardo set to work to be the first to solve it in the most convenient and cost-effective way.

Dual Mode LED Search and Landing Light.Leonardo

The Product

The new Dual Mode LED Search and Landing Light product that Leonardo went on to develop is a steerable helicopter light featuring both visible LED and covert InfraRed LED modes in a ready-to-use configuration. Crucially, this means that users can switch from visible mode to IR light without any additional setup. This allows for an increase in mission readiness, flexibility and safety for the crew.

Designed with military customers in mind, the new product is designed from the ground up to provide excellent performance across all potential operational environments. Using the LED Search and Landing Light, customers can benefit from high performance in both visible and non-visible modes.

Notably, during the product’s development, Leonardo also recognized that customers were looking for an IR-capable light that didn’t require a huge amount of extra work to install onto helicopter platforms. This is why the company designed the light to be fully compliant with standard helicopter search and landing light fixtures. The product is qualified and certified in accordance with RTCA DO-160F and MIL-STD-810G requirements.

The Technology Behind the Searchlight

For helicopter visual search and landings, Light Emitting Diode (LED) based-lamps such as those provided by Leonardo are the most reliable and long-lasting. To allow the new product to provide both a classic visible mode and the new covert mode, the new product comes equipped with both a standard visible LED lamp as well as InfraRed LEDs that create a beam of IR energy that is invisible to the naked eye. The LED IR beam can then be picked up by a helicopter crew’s night vision equipment, allowing the crew to conduct their mission while maintaining a low profile.

LED-based lamps are highly reliable and longlasting because LEDs use semiconductor technology instead of filament bulbs. The company’s latest dual-mode solution exceeds the performance limits of old-style lamps and halogen technology and ensures the product continues to work effectively throughout its service life. The more reliable LED technology also means that the operators can benefit from reduced maintenance costs in the long term.

Dual Mode LED Search and Landing LightLeonardo

Now Available

Leonardo’s LED Search and Landing light is now available worldwide following substantial deliveries to the product’s launch customer in 2016. Leonardo involved this customer throughout the development of the new product to ensure it was perfect for the needs of the users and ideally suited to its covert mission.

Notably, Leonardo’s dual-mode light is the first product of its type worldwide. While some competitors have since recognized the benefits of Leonardo’s system and are working on similar designs, Leonardo’s product is available today and ready for service. The company has a number of patents taken out on the system, including US8807803 B2, EP2450279 B1 and CA2756971 A1.

Leonardo is keen to hear from any customer who would like to upgrade to the new system and introduce this capability into service. Please send an enquiry to Mirko.megli@leonardocompany.com if you believe that this capability could be right for you.

Just the Facts:
LED Search and Landing Light Features

Leonardo in Commercial Electronics

Leonardo is well known as a leader in many areas of aerospace, defence and security. But something fewer people know is that the company also has longstanding experience in commercial electronics, particularly in the design, supply and support of custom human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and lighting system equipment. All these products are based on state of the art technology and are available for both rotary and fixed-wing platforms‎. The commercial electronics business largely comprises two main products families; “Human to Machine Electronic Controls and Display Solutions” and “Interior & Exterior Lighting Systems," each of which features a wide range of products.

The company’s continuing investment in research and development has led to the production of best-in-class steerable LED searchlight technology. This has been qualified for installation on helicopters and designed to fulfill the most demanding requirements of the U.S. Air Force, Army and other defence operators. To date, Leonardo’s customers have deployed more than 1,000 of the company’s searchlights successfully in theatre.

The company’s human-to-machine electronic controls, display solutions and lighting systems for commercial and military aircraft have been deployed on a number of the world’s most advanced fixed and rotary-wing programs, including on the Lockheed Martin F-35 and Airbus A320, A400M and A350XWB.

Products offered by Leonardo in the commercial electronics domain include:

Human to Machine Electronic Controls and Display Solutions

Lighted Panels, Control Panel Assemblies (Switch Panels), Data Entry Panels and Bezels Keyboards, Integrated Cockpit Panels Systems (Flight Deck Control Panels), Overhead Panels & Breaker Panels, HOTAS systems & Hand Grips, Warning & Annunciators panels, Landing Gear Control Units, Control Cursor Units, Maintenance Data Panels, LED Displays, Multi Function Displays, Display Head Assemblies, Up Front Control Panels, Multifunction Control Display Units and Data Interface Units.

Interior & Exterior Lighting Systems

Flood Lights, Map lights, Dimmer units, Landing & Taxi Lights, Power Supplies, Formation Lights, Navigation Lights, Anti Collision lights, Information Signs, Emergency Lighting Systems, Wing & Engine Scan Lights, Cargo Area Lights, Cargo & External Flood Lights, Cabin and Mood Lighting.

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