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Brightness Evaluation and Measurement - BEAM

Funded by the EPSRC October 2006 – January 2009 ( £120k , EP/D05902X/1, September 2006 – April 2008)

Principle Investigator: Dr K Rafferty

Industrial Partner: Flight Precision Ltd.

Research also backed by Civil Aviation Authority United Kingdom, Civil Aviation Authority Netherlands and Transport Canada.


The BEAM project seeks to advance the state of the art of autonomous devices that can perceive and intelligently respond to their environment.  The overall aim of the project is to develop a device capable of assessing lighting systems used within transportation, with particular reference to aviation.

The novel device will consist of cameras placed inside an aircraft and used to collect images of an airfield landing lighting pattern (see Figure 1) during a normal approach and touchdown.  Image processing algorithms can be applied to the collected images in order to extract and track individual luminaries.  The system will then be able to determine if the lighting pattern conforms to standards (see Figure 2) and this information can be relayed to the airport authorities. 

Today’s improved low cost information and communication technology makes it possible to develop an intelligent inspection system for airport landing lighting control that records information with a number of cameras and sensors. The system we propose will use vision sensors capable of recording high-resolution visual information at high inspections speed. The vision data will be stored on hard disk together with data from various other sensors to determine the exact location of the recording and to be able to synchronise all data in time and place.

The system we propose differs radically from anything currently being researched.  We consider the integration of a number of sensing technologies to optimise the system performance.  The measurement system is dynamic and can manoeuvre with six degrees of freedom which is vital for the airport lighting application.   

To satisfy the aims of this project, a number of scientific and technological objectives have been defined:

  1. To set up laboratory based test facilities such that the vision sensors may be characterised in a precisely controlled and reproducible manner.
  2. To construct regional, European and Worldwide databases detailing the airfield lighting layout and dimensional information.
  3. To specify, develop and implement technologies for airport lighting assessment and management.
  4. To investigate and specify how to interface and integrate a range of sensing technologies for data collection to a user friendly intelligent diagnostics system.
  5. To interface and integrate the novel system into existing aircraft
  6. To produce recommendations and guidelines for the generic adoption of BEAM by standards bodies.
  7. To assess the commercial feasibility of BEAM through demonstration and teaching systems
  8. To produce a tool that in principle is transferable between other transportation channels e.g. road lighting, rail signal lighting.
  9. To engage European stakeholders in
    1. a continued dialogue on the evolution of the research,
    2. disseminating the research results,
    3. defining the agenda and needs for future research and policy development.

Thus the BEAM project brings to the study of airfield lighting an innovative and novel research methodology, with the objective of identifying potential failures within the airport landing lighting pattern. 

The overall success of this research project will be measured by the completion of these scientific and technical objectives.

Fig 1. Aerodrome Ground Lighting Pattern for Belfast International Airport. The Runway lighting, Approach Lighting, Supplementary Approach Lighting and the PAPI are shown.

Fig 2. Sample Isocandela Diagram for Aerodrome Ground Lighting Luminaires. The luminous intensity of luminaires within the pattern must conform to the standards as given by the relevant Isocandela diagrams

Measurable Outputs

The feasibility study leading to this research is subject to an international patent.
Inventors: Dodds, McMenemy, Zatari


  1. Niblock, J H, Peng, J X, McMenemy, K R and Irwin, G W,"Fast model-based feature matching technique applied to airport lighting" (2007),Transactions of the IET Science, Measurement & Technology, in press, November 2007.
  2. McMenemy, K,"Objective Measurement of the Quality of Airport Lighting whilst In-Service" (2006),Transactions of the Institute of Measurement and Control, vol. 28, no. 4, pp 353-369, 2006.
  3. Niblock, J H, Peng, J X, Grimes, H S, McMenemy, K R and Irwin, G W, "An automated system for performance asessment of airport lighting" (2008), Proc. of the International Society for Optical Engineering, San Jose, California, USA, vol. 6816-13, January 2008.
  4. Niblock, J H , Peng, J X, McMenemy, K R and Irwin, G W, "Autonomous model-based object identification and camera position estimation with application to airport lighting quality control" (2008), Proc. of 3rd Int. Conference on Computer Vision Theory and Applications, VISAPP, Motion Tracking and Stereo Vision, Funchal, Portugal, 22-25 January 2008.
  5. Niblock, J.H., Peng, J.X., McMenemy, K.R. and Irwin, G.W., "Autonomous Tracking System for Airport Lighting Quality Control" (2007), Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Computer Vision Theory and Applications, VISAPP, Motion Tracking and Stereo Vision, pp. 317-324, Barcelona, March 2007. ISBN: 978-972-8865-74-0.
  6. Niblock, J H, McMenemy, K R and Irwin, G, "A novel image processing system that autonomously monitors lighting patterns with application to airport lighting" (2006), Proceedings of the International Society for Optical Engineering, Vol 6068, San Jose, California, January 2006.
  7. Niblock, J and McMenemy, K, "Image Processing: The Plane Approach" (2005),CD Rom Proceedings of The Institute of Lighting Engineers, Edinburgh, Scotland, 28-30 September 2005.