B/E Aerospace, its new Emteq unit, Diehl Aerospace, and other aircraft cabin lighting specialists will soon be contending with a new, perhaps unlikely competitor in the space. Panasonic Avionics executive director of corporate sales and product management Neil James tells RGN that the inflight entertainment and connectivity giant has designs on becoming a major player in cabin lighting.
“In terms of lighting, we’re in lighting already; Panasonic Corp is the largest LED manufacturer in the world and we think we have some pretty cool technology in that space [for cabins]. We showcased that at the Aircraft Interiors Expo as part of our cool room, but we’re already in the middle of a couple huge RFPs with OEMS, and talking to airlines about it. We know we can control LED color and distribution better than anybody. The technology is all ours; and we obviously already make the cabin management systems (CMS) so we’re already able to control lighting, and change mood lighting at different phases of flight.” says James.
The LED lighting on Tokyo’s SkyTree broadcasting tower is just one example of how Panasonic Avionics’ parent, Panasonic Corp, uses light and heat distribution, and high precision color reproduction technologies for its lighting projects.
A key difference between what Panasonic is bringing to the table in terms of cabin lighting, says James, is that, “We’re using our own technology. Other suppliers are integrating another company’s technology.” He adds that Panasonic is working “with all the OEMs every day” and has non-disclosure agreements with all of them to move its lighting scheme forward.
But as the company eyes aircraft cabin lighting, one thing is becoming clear – nothing in the cockpit or cabin is off limits to Panasonic, which is truly taking a nose-to-tail approach these days. “I don’t think anything is outside of our zone,” says James. “We started making audio reproducers, then made audio systems, then video systems, then cabin [management] systems, so today on the CSeries we do the CMS, IFE, and connectivity. We’ve done the cabin services system for the 787 . We’ve also got some pretty cool stuff going on with joint venture partner IDAIR, doing giant personal and private jets and combining CMS and IFE all together so in principal on the aircraft you can have one device to open the window shades, turn on the eXTV, so we’re in that space of combining that already.” The company is also offering Iridium-powered avionics, flight tracking and weather reporting.
BAE Systems recently told us that Boeing is currently “in the throes of defining what the 777X will look like and we’re joined at the hip with Boeing on trade studies in the cabin, the control systems, and the lights”. While Panasonic’s James declines to discuss the 777X program in specific, he says, “Suffice it to say when a new airframe [is in development], we’re in there pretty early with discussions, and we’re working very closely with all the OEMs on where they’re going next in the cabin.” If Panasonic has its druthers, its ever-growing content on these aircraft will include lighting.
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