Saab Sensis and LFV, Sweden’s air navigation services provider (ANSP), are working toward certification of a “remote tower” (r-TWR) concept next year meant to 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 concept isn’t new. In fact, one could call it a logical extension of development work that originated with Saab in Sweden in the mid-2000s, which showed the economic potential of datalinking various sensors at an unmanned airport to controllers at a distant air traffic monitoring and control center. Such a center could handle a number of small airports that had relatively few arrivals and departures but that still needed personnel to maintain a monitoring watch.
Saab will strengthen its air-traffic-management (ATM) business, adding to its portfolio a ground surveillance system deployed at major U.S. airports, with the planned acquisition of Sensis Corp., of Syracuse, N.Y. The Swedish defense and security group is to acquire Sensis for $155 million, with another $40 million based on winning future contracts and meeting profitability goals.
Corporate operators heading for Colorado’s Craig, Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Rifle Airports this winter shouldn’t worry about diverting to Denver and having their passengers complete the trip by car. That’s because the Colorado DOT has purchased and installed a $5.7 million Sensis multilateration system to track aircraft accurately well below the mountain-affected line of sight of distant FAA secondary surveillance radars (SSR).
Researchers at Sensis’s Seagull Technology Center in Campbell, Calif., have calculated what they call excess fuel burned during taxiing at 13 of the nation’s largest airports. In this case, excess means the amount of time spent taxiing versus the ideal time required to proceed from the ramp to the takeoff point, and from exiting the runway to the ramp after landing, and then converting the time difference into fuel burn.
Although few pilots may know the word, multilateration is quickly becoming a household term among air traffic controllers and airport authorities. But pilots will ultimately be one of its major beneficiaries.
At the Air Traffic Control Association’s annual convention this fall, Syracuse, N.Y.-based Sensis announced that its multilateration system will replace the legacy precision runway monitor (PRM) radar used at the Sydney, Australia airport, to monitor aircraft flying simultaneous approaches to its closely spaced parallel runways, 16L and 16R.
One of the newest ATC techniques is multilateration, where several small unattended receiving stations are dispersed around an airport to monitor transponder and TCAS transmissions from aircraft in the area. The received signals are then computer processed to pinpoint the exact location and identity of each aircraft.
Honeywell and Sensis demonstrated in August a concept of providing automated, individual voice warnings to pilots about to fall prey to a runway incursion accident. Unlike the current procedure, the concept technology issues the warning to the pilots at the same time as the air traffic controllers.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has launched a new technology initiative that will provide enhanced surveillance, and thereby improve access, to its many mountain airports. Currently, IFR flight operations at those locations are limited because surrounding mountains block the line-of-sight signals of the FAA’s ATC secondary (transponder interrogating) radars, preventing the monitoring of lower-level arriving and departing traffic.