Sweden's Transport Agency Approves 'Remote Tower' Ops

 - June 23, 2014, 12:05 PM
Swedish Transport Agency approval cleared the way to begin operations at the Sundsvall Remote Tower Center. (Photo: LFV)

The Swedish Transport Agency approved technical and operational procedures Sweden’s air navigation service provider LFV will use to operate the world’s first “remote tower,” contractor Saab announced. This fall, controllers at the Sundsvall Remote Tower Center will begin managing takeoffs and landings at Örnsköldsvik Airport, 62 miles distant.

The remote tower concept combines the ATC functions of small airports at one centrally located facility, or remote tower center (RTC). The system links, in real time, cameras and sensors installed at the remote airports and feeds the information to controllers at the RTC, where it is streamed live on LCD displays. Saab’s remote tower suite includes high-definition cameras and pan-tilt-zoom cameras, surveillance and meteorological sensors, microphones, signal light guns and other devices installed at the airport.

Remote towers make it possible to maintain air traffic services at low-traffic airports and deliver services to airports without towers. During development work with LFV, “it became apparent that some of today’s air traffic control towers are no longer optimally located,” Saab added. In such cases, a remote tower system would allow controllers to see areas of an airport without having to build a new tower. “We can see a great deal of interest from many parts of the world,” said Håkan Buskhe, Saab president and CEO.

U.S. and European aviation officials discussed remote towers earlier this month at the RTCA Symposium in Washington, D.C. Florian Guillermet, Sesar Joint Undertaking executive director, said he was initially skeptical of the concept, but now sees its potential to provide air traffic services at locations that could use towers. “It’s not a question of whether we need [towers] or not, it’s can we afford them? That is where the remote tower concept is interesting,” he said. “This has a lot of potential. The technology is becoming mature.”