The flights that I've been on in the Dreamliner (and also Virgin America), have dynamic overhead cabin lighting that provides nice mood lighting, helps alleviate jet-lag, and is otherwise very pleasing to look at. What is the technology behind this? The closest technology I've seen that can offer dynamic light coloring is phillips hue lightstrips.

Photo of Dreamliner colored interior cabin lighting

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Although the Hue light strips are the main domestic commercial product, it's pretty easy to get (at an industrial level), lots of different types of LED, and to make your own controller system $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Nov 14, 2015 at 11:17
  • $\begingroup$ frankly, that lighting seems really annoying, and I can only imagine it might be useful based on which color zone you might be sitting in. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Nov 16, 2015 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ I've linked to your question here $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 12, 2019 at 1:58

2 Answers 2


This 'mood' lighting is offered by Boeing in 787 and Airbus in A350XWB (as an option) and is achieved by using Light Emitting Diodes (LED). According to Airbus,

Airbus is applying the latest technology in energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) mood-lighting on the A350 XWB. This enables the cabin ambience to be tailored to each airline’s own identity, as well as mimicking natural sunrise and sunset illumination that helps the body adapt to jetlag on long-range flights.

The main advantages of LEDs over conventional lights are,

  • The LEDs are longer lasting (~50,000 hrs).

  • They are more energy efficient.

  • They generate less heat.

Phillips seems to be involved in the development of lighting systems for the(se) aircraft. According to led-professional.com,

Philips Lumileds provided the LEDs while Diehl Aerospace engineered the overall lighting system for the Boeing and Airbus cabin interiors.

The light intensity and colors are decided by the airliners and are pre-programmable (and can be changed remotely). According to Bloomberg,

The Finnair A350 cabin has two dozen light settings, aligned with stages of a long-haul flight. It will also feature warmer, amber colors on flights arriving in Asia and cooler “Nordic blue” hues when flying into Finland. ... Virgin Atlantic has five primary color periods on its 787 flights: rose-champagne for boarding, purple-pink for drinks, "amber" for dining, another for the pre-sleep period called “work-rest-play,” a silvery glow for overnight sleep, and a waking color.

Similar lighting systems are also offered by third parties for other aircraft.


According to Boeing they are using High-intensity discharge (HID) and light emitting diode (LED) lighting almost across the board on the plane.

The 787 has replaced virtually all cabin, flight deck and exterior lighting with HID and LED lighting technologies. Because these light types have no filament, the operational life of the lights is dramatically longer than that of an incandescent bulb.

The lights you show specifically are most likely tri-color LED's or some other similar array that would allow color selection and combination in a nice package (this is just my engineering assumption/how I would design it).

Once Boeing identified what light ranges relaxed people/helps jet lag the engineer would simply have to spec out LED's capable of delivering light in/at that spectrum. If they chose to use a tri-color package or single frequency LED's is up to them, the end result will be more or less the same optically speaking.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I hope they're not using HID for interior lighting! That sounds painful. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Nov 16, 2015 at 17:13

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