Landing Strip Light System




Introduction: Landing Strip Light System

About: My name is DJ and I previously made electronic whatsits, 3D-printed thingamabobs, and laser-cut kajiggers for the Instructables Design Studio; now I build and repair puzzles for Particle Industries.

If you've ever had the pleasure of navigating a large vehicle into a small space, you may understand how difficult it can be occasionally. Signalling proper entry with a dangling tennis ball or floor bumper might do the trick, but what if you want more? With your very own landing strip lighting system, you'll finally have an illuminated garage to match your style. In addition to a set of "runway" lights on either side of your floor, the system also includes ultrasonic distance measuring. Additional forward-facing strips of light guide you inside, without requiring you to hit, or run over any physical markers.

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Step 1: Parts and Materials

5V 4A power supply

Arduino Pro (any board that can use the NeoPixel library will work)

NeoPixel strip (60 led 1 meter)

ultrasonic distance sensor

reed switch

clear cable runner

panel-mount barrel jack


(4x) 300 ohm resistor

1000 uF capacitor

(12x) 6-32 screw

(12x) 6-32 nut

(2x) 4-40 screw

(2x) 4-40 nut

(4x) #8 x 1" wood screw

(4x) terminal block


heat-shrink tubing

electrical tape


Step 2: Design Overview

The lighting system is broken up into three main parts: the floor strips, the reed switch, and the main headboard.

Floor Strips

These act as our "Landing Strip Lights" and will "chase" like a marquee when the garage is open but a car has not entered. For this, I chose clear cable runner to protect the LEDs from damage while still allowing light to pass through.

Reed Switch

Paired with a magnet on the garage door, this will alert the Arduino when to power the lights.


The headboard houses the control electronics, more LEDs, and the ultrasonic sensor. As the user pulls in, an Arduino detects the decreasing distance with the ultrasonic sensor. As a car pulls in, fewer LEDs illuminate and gradually fade from green to red to provide a strong visual cue for the driver. The RGB leds are the ever-popular WS2812B units, which Adafruit refers to as NeoPixels. These greatly simplify wiring as they can be daisy-chained together and controlled via a single pin per strip! I cut up a strip of 60 "pixels" so that I could extend them to match the dimensions of my headboard and floor strips.

(Note: Why not use an analog IR sensor?

While easier to use and often cheaper than their ultrasonic equivalents, IR sensors need to measure reflected light to accurately determine distance. As such, they have difficulty measuring the distance to black or transparent objects (black paint, windshields, etc.). While ultrasonic distance sensors have issues with spongy, sound absorbent material, most cars are made out of some pretty tough stuff.)

Step 3: Building the Headboard


I designed the headboard in Adobe Illustrator and cut it out of 3mm acrylic with a laser cutter. The files were made to fit a laser with a three foot wide bed. However, there's no need to use a laser cutter. I simply wanted to have little triangular holes in front of each led instead of the typical round face. The headboard consists of three main layers, a front plate, two middle "wings" for the LEDs, and a baseplate; these are sandwiched together with 6-32 screws. The proto-board and circuit mount to the back for a clean face. Four 18" square dowel rods are screwed into the back plate in order for the unit to rest on a shelf, but these could be replaced with nails or hooks if you wished to have the unit hanging on a back wall.


The schematic is fairly straightforward since most of the circuit is made up of pre-assembled modules. The only discrete components are the resistors to the Digital In pins of the NeoPixel chains and a beefy 1000 uF electrolytic capacitor across the power rails. The LEDs are broken up into four segments, two lengths of 16 LEDs extended to three feet for the headboard and two lengths of 12 LEDs extended to twelve feet for each floor strip. I used terminal blocks to connect the external NeoPixel chains and power supply; this makes installation easier with shorter wires and allows quick dis-assembly of the unit.


The code is fairly modest as well. I decided to use an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega 328 @ 5V) from Sparkfun, since they're cheap (~$10) and small. I wouldn't need to reprogram this board often, so there was no need to pay extra for the FTDI chip on a regular Arduino. The code is pretty compact, so with only slight modifications it would definitely be possible to use an even smaller micro like the Adafruit Trinket or even a bare ATtiny85!

Step 4: Building the Floor Strips

Take the cable runner and fold it in half. Mark the midpoint and cut.

Cut the NeoPixel strip into individual units along the midpoint of the copper traces. Tin the new copper pad edges.

Measure out one foot pieces each of red, yellow, and black wire. We'll need twenty two of these sets to extend the LED strips.

Measure out ten feet each of red, yellow, and black wire. These will connect the strips to the headboard.

(Note: a power-drill makes quick work of entwining your wires to make them nice and straight. This is important for them to slide easily into the channel in the runner.)

Solder the new one foot braids in between twelve of the LEDs. Attach the long braids to the ends of the strip marked "DIN." When cut to individual pieces, the LEDs look identical, but there are arrows indicating which way the signal goes. Pay attention the the orientation of each LED.

Pull the newly extended strips through the channel in the runner. I used a magnet to pull a paperclip attached to a piece of string tied around the strip to pull it through; slow going, but it works!

Step 5: Final Thoughts

Installation is simply a matter of unrolling the floor strips, attaching the headboard to the back wall, and installing the reed switch near your garage door. Test out the location of the magnet on the door to make sure the the lights turn off when the door is closed!

Overall, I'm quite satisfied with how the system turned out. The landing strip lights and headboard make for an impressive sight when entering your garage at night. The headboard especially creates quite the eerie glow! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did building it. If you make a similar system for your own garage, please share in the comments!

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    13 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Cool! I have something like this down each side my driveway that strobes from the driveway entrance to the house.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It's just a 1/4 W since they're only on the digital signal. Power is on a separate rail.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Is it possible that pin D9 en D8 need to be changed with pin D6 en D7 on your schematic?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    ok thanks, I'm planning to make this but i'll probably mount the floor strips on the wall


    5 years ago on Introduction

    An excellent instructable! Well detailed and handy... but one little quibble with the video... at the end, you say the car is "perfectly parked" and not hitting the bucket of tennis balls is used as "proof".. however, as you are walking away, one cannot help but notice that there is about six inches of car sticking out beyond the 'line' that delineates where the garage door is closing... bye bye trunk... <G>


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is cool! I did a similar thing to my garage, but I used surplus Christmas lights in the rafters overhead. This setup makes it easier to move tools and equipment and around in my garage.

    This is really cool! I used some of these lights to light up my 3d printer! I think I'll make an 'ible on that sometime soon! Awesome job, though!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    First thought on seeing blue lights: "Well, I wouldn't land on a taxiway if I were you!"

    That's just an occupational issue I guess. The idea is neat!

    When I first learned how to drive this would have been very helpful.

    My dad had the brilliant idea of letting me back out the new car at the time, out of a really cramped garage. Lo and behold I gently crunch the front side of it, in to one of his machines that was nearest to a wall. It was stuck there until we both some how managed to get it out. Since then I let my dad remove the car out of our still messy garage. When I can afford my own house, I'd like one of these. ;D


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, Whats wrong with a tennis ball :P

    I've tried something like that with a 10-Segment bar graph on the back of my truck. Never would have thought of using the neo-Pixles for a runway ! lol Good Idea :D

    Do you find they help you back out of your garage too?