Airport Show
13 - 15 May 2025

Held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group

Intelligent Airfield Lighting – Making Airports’ Visual Guidance Smarter

With airports pushing faster and harder than ever to reduce ground handling accident rates and improve the overall sustainability of their operations, intelligent airfield lighting (IAL) is assuming even greater importance (and therefore commanding higher investment levels) in the delivery of next-gen airport design.


Lighting the way ahead

Against a backdrop of climbing passenger numbers and their demands for a seamless, delay-free flying experience, airports need to ensure that their infrastructure is of a sufficiently high standard to not just cope with rising demands, but anticipate and therefore successfully satisfy them. 

IAL is quickly becoming an essential part of the infrastructural big picture, due to its proven track record of increase operational efficiency while improving safety. More than just turning lights on and off at the right time, IAL is a design philosophy that enables optimal aircraft routing to and from airport gates by combing the capabilities of lighting, aircraft tracking and surveillance systems to give operators the greatest possible degree of situational awareness. 


Benefits in brief

Heightened safety and reduced accident rates: Industry analysts believe that around 85% of all airport accidents are caused by human error, and over 60% of these accidents have human factors as their primary cause. IAL systems make aircraft routing as simple, efficient and safe as possible as automated systems anticipate future movements of aircraft to create optimal traffic flows that minimise the potential for collision or other accidents. This applies regardless of ground weather conditions; even in poor visibility, aircraft can be directed in an optimal manner.

Optimised capacity and throughput: While ensuring that aircraft are processed as safely as possible, intelligent airfield lighting also helps ensure that the airport can utilise all of its runway capacity, all of the time, without unnecessary delay. In the current era of heightened competition and consumer expectations, every minute and every measure of capacity counts.

Sustainability boost: The latest iterations of IAL call for the use of energy saving LEDs, which have proven to bring down operational maintenance costs as they use around 85% less energy than the equivalent halogen bulbs


A growing trend of IAL Adoption

We’re now seeing a pipeline of major IAL projects developing globally as airport operators look towards more holistic design systems to help them cut costs, boost safety and efficiency, comply with tightening regulations and generally keep up with burgeoning demand. In late 2018, Istanbul New Airport (INA) made headlines with its IAL system dubbing its airfield “the most intelligent in the world” at the time. Utilising 40,000 LEDs, pilots landing and taking off from INA are now simply able to “follow the greens” to wherever they need to go, and the system will unerringly direct them to their destination.

More recently, the tail end of 2019 saw Hong Kong International Airport award ADB Safegate a new $100,000 IAL procurement to further augment their operational capabilities. Similar developments are either being tendered, delivered or planned in airports around the world as operators are increasingly viewing IAL as a relatively low-cost but high yield method of improving their existing infrastructure.


This article was created in association with Airport Show taking place in Dubai on 24-26 May 2021. 


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