Will Aircraft Ceilings Of The Future Be Illuminated?

LED mood lighting has long been the only way to spice up the ambiance of the aircraft cabin. But an interesting technology from Collins Aerospace takes this idea and makes it a million times better. The Secant Luminous Panel can be applied to any aircraft ceiling, or indeed cabin wall or bulkhead, and can be used to display just about anything.

Secant Ceiling
The Secant solution could see just about anything projected from the ceiling of the aircraft. Photo: Collins Aerospace

Making boring cabins beautiful

Aircraft cabins are getting ever more comfortable, at least in terms of materials and finishes, as well as seat technology. But for the most part, they are rather grey and boring, particularly when you think about the ceiling. While the Dreamliner and other innovative interiors have sought to use LED mood lighting to add interest and color to the interior, surely there’s more you can do with this space to add interest and design touches?

A couple of years back, Collins Aerospace came up with a delightful means of making this space more engaging. The company calls its idea the Secant Luminous Panel, and effectively turns the cabin ceiling into a giant display area, capable of showcasing images, branding or even moving pictures to enhance the ambiance of the cabin space.

The panel is essentially a fully customizable display, capable of being used as general cabin lighting, or hosting a variety of imagery in the space. This could be visuals of the clouds above, of a starry night sky, or even safety information such as routes to emergency exits. Airlines could also use it for branding or promotion, selling space to advertising partners on each flight.

The technology can also be integrated into other parts of the aircraft cabin, such as the cabin walls. This could then be employed to perhaps offer a personalized welcome to guests, or to direct them to their seat number without the usual peering and squinting required.

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How Secant works

Secant uses micro-LED technology to transform any surface in the aircraft into a dynamic, illuminated display. The solution is completely scalable, so it can be used in very discreet areas or can be scaled up to cover an entire ceiling. It’s made up of multiple flexible panels, printed circuit boards, that can be collected together to form a larger display area.

Because the panels are flexible, they can be molded to fit any part of the aircraft interior. Joined together and covered with a translucent fabric, to the naked eye they are not there at all, but once they’re powered up and a display is launched, they turn the cabin architecture into something quite beautiful.

Secant Ceiling
Projections can be installed on cabin walls also. Photo: Collins Aerospace

Aside of the stunning imagery that can be produced on the SECANT panels, and the endless branding and advertising opportunities it opens up for airlines, there is a key passenger benefit too. The technology delivers fully distributed light, so the lighting is more natural and evenly spread, rather than coming from a fixed position which will naturally create dark corners. No heat is produced, so it will be easier for crews to maintain a comfortable temperature on board.

SECANT was a finalist in the 2018 Crystal Cabin Awards, but it is yet to make its way onto an aircraft. Nevertheless, with airlines seeking new ways to differentiate themselves in the competitive marketplace, this is an idea that could see renewed attention in the future. At the very least, we can see it being a hot pick for the business jets and VIP aircraft of tomorrow.