Obstacle marker beacons: ensuring safety in the skies
The role of obstruction lights
Obstruction lights play a vital role in aviation, keeping millions of people safe in the air during night-time hours when visibility can be zero.
What are they?
These are technical lighting devices that can be installed on tall structures such as antennas, communication towers, bridges, etc. Their installation is governed by international regulations such as those laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which are sometimes supplemented by additional safety measures.
What is their function? To indicate the presence of obstacles, by means of a continuous light or flashes, in order to avoid possible collisions with aircraft. To avoid flashing and, consequently, inconvenience to the public, the trend in recent years has been to use fixed lights wherever possible.
As for the existing options, it is important to take into account the classification established by international standards according to the intensity of the light emitted:
- Low intensity, for signalling obstacles up to 45 m high.
- Medium intensity, for obstacles between 45 m and 150 m high
- High intensity, for obstacles higher than 150 m in height
The Importance of ICAO Regulations
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency, sets the rules governing civil aviation internationally, a regulation that is essential to ensure the safety and efficiency of air navigation.
Benefits of compliance with ICAO regulations
In addition, ICAO provides specific standards for the installation of obstacle marker beacons, guidelines that address critical issues such as structure height, light intensity, flash pattern and synchronisation with other nearby beacons.
Complying with these regulations is essential to avoid accidents and maintain flight safety, but also to provide a single ‘version’ of the meaning of the different lights around the world. Here are some of the benefits of complying with the standard:
- Aviation safety: Ensures that obstacle marker lights are visible and effective for pilots, thereby reducing the risk of collisions with overhead structures.
- Navigational efficiency: Contributes to better organisation of airspace and allows aircraft to plot safer and more efficient routes.
- Unity of interpretation: It is a globally applicable regulation that is interpreted in the same way everywhere, which results in both simplicity and effectiveness.