B.C. Firm Lights Up Afghan Base

Carmanah Technologies of Victoria will supply airfield lighting

Thursday, January 8, 2004

A Victoria-based company is providing solar-powered air field lighting for the U.S. Army's main air base in Afghanistan.

Carmanah Technologies has sold 520 of its proprietary LED (light emitting diode) airfield lights worth $266,000 to the u.s. Army.

The lights have been installed on the Bagram air base north of Kabul.

The military is using the LED lights to mark the edge of runways, taxiways, aprons, as well as delineate construction areas.

The airfield is used by C-130 cargo planes, fighters and helicopters.

Within the last year Carmanah has sold over $1.6-million worth of lighting to the U.s. military, said Art Aylesworth, Carmanah's CEO.

"New orders are coming in as more military engineers, ground crews, and pilots experience the safety and cost advantages of our technology," said Aylesworth.

The company's products are now being used in 10 military installations in the U.S., the Middle East and Asia.

Carmanah's solar-powered units require no external electrical source allowing crews to install a complete airfield lighting system that the company claims will run maintenance-free for up to five years.

The lights are a much cheaper alternative to conventionally powered lighting systems, according to Carmanah's business development manager Allister Wilmott.

"Military engineers report 90-percent savings," he said. He also said the lights have an advantage over conventional lights when pilots are using night vision goggles.

"Conventional incandescent lights create a blooming or blinding effect inside their night-vision goggles. LED allows them to fly with night-vision goggles for better overall vision," said Wilmott.

Carmanah specializes in solar-powered LED lights for aviation, marine, transit, road and railway systems and since 1996 has sold 70,000 units in 80 countries.

LED technology is expected to change the way the world is lit.

A number of B.C. companies are involved in the development of LED technology, such as Vancouver's TIR Systems which has seen a 187-per-cent increase in sales revenues over the last year and a four-fold increase in its share value.

Unlike incandescent bulbs in which light is produced when electricity is passed through a small wire until it glows, the LED produces light when an electrical current passes through a silicon chip about the size of a grain of salt and made from a blend of crystals.

LED lamps are durable, can withstand rough treatment and are said to last 20 times longer than the best incandescent bulbs made.