Lighting for safer landing – a portable landing light system

An award-winning lightweight, portable landing light system that can be deployed rapidly and operated by remote control. It is also infrared-enabled, allowing for defence applications.

Technical Field / Operating Unit or Centre: 

CSIR Defence, Peace, Safety and Security

Business Opportunity:

Seeking a licensee

Technology Description: 

The special operations capability of the South African  National Defence Force enlists a particular brand of soldier to operate under difficult circumstances. These operatives often require technology solutions of particular sophistication and precision. The scene is set for heightened creativity, discovery and invention.

Chris Botha is a project manager and technician at the CSIR’s technology for special operations group. Together with his team, he designed and developed a product named CANDLE, a portable landing light system which won them international acclaim.


The system is lightweight and can be carried as part of a paratrooper’s kit. It is rapidly set up to either mark a drop zone
for paratroopers or to lay out a landing strip for aircraft with infrared or normal visible light. Its innovativeness lies in the fact that the lights are remote controlled and can be switched on and off either by operators on the ground or the pilot from as far away as 10 kilometres.

CANDLE is most often used by paratroopers in peacekeeping operations, who perform a path-finding function, and who
are dropped in areas where there is no landing strip. The system consists of 12 lights, each fitted with a transmitter/
receiver with a remote control effective up to 600 metres and 200 metres between lights.  With six lights on either side, a
landing strip of a km and longer can be marked out. This means a plane the size of a Hercules transport aircraft can be  guided with this system.  When the aircraft approaches,  the lights are switched on, and then switched off immediately
once it has landed safely.

Because it is infrared-enabled, the lights are only detected by night vision equipment and thus remain unseen with the naked eye. Initially required to assist defence force personnel in areas without sufficient air transport infrastructure, the
system has also found civilian application among mining companies both in South  Africa and elsewhere on the continent. The CSIR is in the process of upgrading the landing light system to include  landward-based sensor systems to serve as an early warning system for protection, as well as a detection capability for intrusion into secure environments.

The upgrading of this capability will ensure that the CSIR has an updated version ready for industrialisation with a partner under a licensing agreement.

The portable landing light system was awarded a coveted International Soldier Technology Award in 2006, selected from a number of soldier modernisation programmes from around the world.

Intellectual Property:

Know-how and designs

Team / Inventor:

Chris Botha


Contact:  Nivan Moodley

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