Saab Sensis and LFV, Sweden’s air navigation services provider (ANSP), are working toward certification of a “remote tower” (r-TWR) concept next year that will allow air traffic controllers to manage aircraft operations at small and regional airports from a distance using cameras and other sensors. Authorities in Australia and Norway have begun testing the technology as well.
The r-TWR concept, also under study as part of the Single European Sky ATM Research (Sesar) program, combines the ATC functions of multiple small airports at one centrally located facility. The system links, in real time, cameras and sensors installed at the airports to a common control center. It can integrate camera views, radar data and wind and weather information in a 360-degree “virtual” display of an airport corresponding to a pilot’s head-up display. “In this way, the operation of regional airports is made more efficient and air navigation can be ensured, even in areas with a small population,” according to LFV. “Rather than keeping several control towers staffed, the air traffic controllers are brought together in one center. …With modern technology, aviation safety can be increased even as costs for air navigation services are reduced.”
In Sweden, LFV is providing the operational methodology and Saab Sensis the enabling technology for a remote tower center in Sundsvall chosen to manage operations at Sundsvall Härnösand and Örnsköldsvik airports. Sundsvall and Örnsköldsvik, both located along Sweden’s Baltic coast, lie about 78 miles (125 kilometers) apart. The project has reached the validation phase, and organizers expect to see operational capability next year. Saab-Sensis demonstrated the r-TWR system at Ängelholm Airport, a former military base, in 2009.
Airservices Australia also has begun evaluating the system at Alice Springs Airport, using ATC provided from a remote tower center in Adelaide, about 950 miles (1,529 kilometers) away. Earlier this year, Saab Sensis and Norway’s Avinor ANSP signed a contract to begin an r-TWR trial in that country next year. Avinor personnel at the Bodø air traffic control center plan to manage operations at a heliport on Værøy Island.
Saab Sensis displayed the r-TWR concept for the first time in the U.S. at the Air Traffic Control Association conference earlier this month in National Harbor, Maryland. Sweden’s Saab acquired Sensis, of Syracuse, New York, in August last year, creating Saab Sensis.