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Conspicuity of LEDs for navigation

NightvisionHow effective are new lighting technologies when used with methods of enhancing visual imaging?

The General Lighthouse Authorities (Trinity House, Northern Lighthouse Board and the Commissioners of Irish Lights) are studying the effectiveness of new lighting technologies when used with methods of enhancing visual imaging that detect various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as night vision goggles, thermal imaging cameras etc.

Part of the investigation will be based on user consultation and experience.

Recognising that visual imaging devices are now widely available on the recreational boating market, the RYA has been asked if its members have views or experiences they might provide.

These would help to inform the investigation in assessing whether marine signal lights are effective in this situation and how best they might be improved.

If you have experience of using visual imaging devices at sea and wish to take part, please let the us know of them at together with any operational factors such as range, weather conditions, state of moon and details of the equipment and we will pass them on.

Less conspicuous?

There is a suggestion, for example, that buoy lights using light emitting diodes (LEDs) may be less conspicuous to thermal imaging devices than the incandescent lamps they are designed to replace.

Of course this is not just confined to LED light sources used for general navigation marks. 

It may also affect the visibility of LED navigation lights that are becoming increasingly popular amongst recreational boaters. This is something that might be significant in search and rescue operations and for detection by high speed craft.


As a result, the General Lighthouse Authorities Research & Radio Navigation Directorate are carrying out a preliminary investigation into this matter with the aim of finding ways of improving visual signals and navigational aids at sea.

We look forward to hearing from you! Please be assured that any information given will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager
Images supplied courtesy of Raymarine.


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