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Whelen Engineering Legacy LED Lightbar

New design with new capabilities.

Whelen Engineering Legacy LED Lightbar
By: Matt Ayers

LED technology has completely revolutionized the emergency-vehicle warning industry. In just over 10 years’ time, LED warning lights have gone from an expensive, unreliable novelty to a mature technology that has overtaken the market. The greatest benefactor of this revolution in warning technology has been the end-user as today’s lighting systems offer a significant margin of safety by being brighter, more reliable, and more configurable.

Whelen Engineering has been one of the leaders in warning light technology since 1952. They were among the first to offer LED technology in their lightbars. Whelen now offers a full line of LED lightbars and supplemental lights. With the recent introduction of their all-new Legacy™ Super-LED® WeCan® lightbar, Whelen has packaged that hard-earned knowledge and over 60 years of manufacturing experience into a most impressive lightbar.

The Legacy is a linear lightbar offering excellent user-configurability, multi-color output, and Whelen’s lowest profile design. The Legacy has evolved from Whelen’s Edge® lightbar series, first introduced in the early 1980s, and the Liberty™ lightbar series, introduced nearly 20 years later. Similar in shape, the Legacy is entirely improved with regards to serviceability, weather resistance, optics and driver technology, and programmability. For Whelen, the Legacy also is a showcase of their in-house manufacturing capabilities.

Within their modern facilities in Chester, Conn. and Charlestown, N.H., Whelen has compiled the machinery and developed the processes necessary for its workforce to manufacture and assemble even the smallest components for their products. Many of these capabilities were acquired to give Whelen greater control over quality and enable faster development and production. Nearly every manufacturing process for the Legacy, from circuit board assembly to liquid silicone seal injection, has been perfected in-house.

Whelen’s manufacturing capability is largely focused on LED products. About 50 million LEDs are used each year. The Legacy lightbar was designed from the chassis up to maximize the performance of the best, newest generation of high-output LEDs. New patent-pending Collimator™ design and Diamond Optix™ linear reflectors and optics collect, focus, and distribute light for intense output. Whelen offers its excellent DUO+™ single and multi-color technology standard in the Legacy, with up to four warning colors in one lightbar. DUO+ means no dead spots or gaps in warning coverage.

The practical application of DUO+ technology is that agencies no longer have to choose traffic directors or takedown and alley light features over warning lights when specifying lightbars. Any warning light can transition to those roles with the flip of a switch. One of the Legacy’s most impressive features is its ability to offer 360 degrees of white light, providing intense work light for any law enforcement task. 

Additionally, both warning and illumination features can be active simultaneously with full intensity. The Legacy also has an integrated photocell that can automatically switch to low power at night yet still meet SAE Class I requirements.

Thermal management is critical to successful LED technology and Whelen uses Advanced Thermal Design (ATD) to reduce heat stress on LEDs and to allow extended dwell time. ATD has enabled the use of new flash patterns, including “SteadyFlash.” Ideal for nighttime traffic stop and accident scene use, SteadyFlash provides a constant on signal interrupted by a flash cycle every several seconds. Developed in response to the needs of a state police agency, it is an excellent pattern for marking vehicle position without visually overwhelming passing motorists.

All flash patterns are programmable using Whelen’s proprietary WeCan configuration interface.  WeCan allows for custom configuration and gives customers control over each light head. When paired with Whelen’s CenCom Sapphire™ or CanTrol™ WC siren and lighting control systems, the Legacy’s WeCan capabilities are nearly limitless. Set up the bar to change modes, colors, patterns, based on programmable inputs or even based on the selected siren tone. The Legacy lightbar offers “plug-and-play” compatibility with both CenCom Sapphire and CanTrol controllers. A WeCan controller module is supplied for use with other controllers.

In addition to being intelligent, the Legacy is durable and ruggedized for use in harsh environments. Built on an aluminum extrusion, the Legacy also has an aluminum top shield to protect the lightbar from nature’s surprises. The extrusion chassis and top shield are part of Whelen’s thermal management strategy, combining to direct heat away from internal components for long life and reliability. Simplified, point-to-point wiring from the Legacy’s I/O board to each light head also improves reliability and eases service. Light heads snap into their mounts and are secured with clips. All hardware is stainless.

One of the Legacy’s biggest improvements over the Liberty design lies with its new lens covers.  Each one-piece UNI-DOME cover slides onto the extrusion and has a single sealing point.  Liquid Injection Molded (LIM) wiper seals, formed in-house, secure the lightbar against moisture and dust to fully protect interior components. Each lens is hard-coated to protect against yellowing and hazing caused by UV damage, road salt and other chemicals. Only clear lenses are currently offered; however, colored lenses are expected to be available soon.

With a height of only 1.6 inches, the Legacy nearly disappears on the roof of police vehicles.  Whelen recently released new, low-profile mounting feet that allow the bar to mount much closer to the roof while providing great stability; standard height mounting feet are also available. Vehicle-specific hook mounting kits are available for most vehicles. Standard available lengths are 44 inches, 48 inches, and 54 inches to fit the roof widths of current-generation police sedans and utility vehicles.

In use, the Legacy has proven to be among today’s brightest lightbars. Its profile and clear lenses offer a stealth appearance at intermediate and longer distances when the lightbar is off. In warning mode, the light output provides crisp, true colors with unmatched intensity. Of course, the lightbar meets all applicable emergency-vehicle warning standards and certifications.

Whelen’s Legacy represents a leap ahead in lightbar design and functionality. Using its intelligent WeCan interface, customers can configure the lightbar to act as not just a warning device, but as a means to communicate to motorists using patterns and colors. In the constant evolution of the linear lightbar design, the Legacy is Whelen’s sharper edge.

Matthew Ayers is a Captain with the Sevierville, Tenn. Police and the owner of Command & Control Installations. He may be reached at or

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jul/Aug 2013

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