MARCH 23, 2007

How to light a race track without lights

As the folk in Melbourne quibble over what it will cost to light up the Formula 1 track in Albert Park - if indeed it is necessary given that the race could be held at night without the need for lights if the date was changed - there are other arguments which need to be taken into account. With modern technology there is actually no need for Melbourne to go into the costs of installing expensive floodlighting as there are much more cost-effective alternatives. One of these is the use of lighting balloons.

These were invented in 1994 by French inventor Pierre Chabert and feature a helium filled balloon fitted with halogen or HMI discharge lamps. A sophisticated electric system allows the balloon to operate at heights of up to 50m and to light an area of up to 4 hectares. The light produced by these balloons is non-glaring, 360-degree light without shadows and has been widely used in the film industry but also for concerts, festivals, exhibitions, sporting events, promotional campaigns, parking lots, construction sites, in addition to crime and accident scene lighting. The company was first introduced to the film business with James Cameron's Titanic in 1996 and has been widely used ever since. In 2003 Chabert's Airstar company was presented with an Academy Award for Technical Achievement for the introduction of balloons with internal light sources to provide lighting for the motion picture industry.

The advantage is that the lighting is fast, versatile, quick to install and every efficient as power consumption is low compared to traditional flood lighting.

Melbourne (and other Grands Prix considering night racing) could buy a number of these balloons and thus be able to use them for other events as well as the Grand Prix.