When Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions (SDATS) was selected last month by the UK’s Royal Air Force to create a remote tower “operational concept demonstrator,” it was also exactly 100 years since the world’s first aerodrome control tower was established, at Croydon, south of London.
SDATS, the remote tower business Saab formed with the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration (LFV) in 2016, has been going from strength to strength, mainly in the civil airport world, but militaries have now started to see the advantages of applying new technology, saving costs while safely adding capabilities and reach.
Saab said the technology could “eventually change the way military ATC is conducted, both during normal operations and during times of increased threats.”
The system will be installed at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland for demonstration and evaluation during 2020 and 2021, said Saab.
“Saab’s Digital Tower demonstrator will enable us to explore how we could modernize our air traffic services fit for a next-generation air force,” said the chief of staff for capability, Air Vice-Marshal Simon Rochelle.
Magnus Lewis-Olsson, president of Saab Technologies UK Ltd, said, “We are delighted that the close collaboration between the RAF and Saab UK has resulted in this first contract for a Saab Digital Tower and I look forward to the next steps in the Air Force’s journey towards digital airfields.”
Per Ahl, CEO of Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions, added, “We are proud to be trusted by the RAF to support their Digital Tower Operational Concept Demonstrator at Lossiemouth. [It is an] excellent opportunity for Saab to show how the RAF could benefit from the use of our digital tower system.”
The first airport to get a Saab digital tower was Örnsköldsvik Airport, in 2015—making it the first airport in the world to have remote air traffic control. Cranfield Airport was the first in the UK to operate the Saab system and London City Airport is also working to introduce Saab’s solution mainly as a back-up tower operation.
In addition, SDATS last year signed a 20-year framework agreement with LVNL, The Netherlands’ air traffic control organization, for remote tower systems. SDATS received an initial order within the framework contract to establish remote towers at Groningen and Maastricht, and a remote tower center at Schiphol Airport.
“This contract will be the first to cover a country-wide implementation. with our second-generation digital towers,” said Ahl.
Delivery to the Netherlands project will start in 2020 with initial operations to be started in 2021.
“Saab will support us in the further development of the system, safety analyses, and training courses for air traffic controllers”, said Hans-Peter Spies, general manager of the LVNL regional unit.
Sweden has also taken advantage of the home-grown success story. In December it inaugurated the first new airport in the country in 20 years at Scandinavian Mountains Airport in Sälen, with Saab providing the on-site camera tower. The Stockholm-based company is also providing ongoing digital ATC services for a period of 10 years from its remote tower center in Sundsvall.
The airport mainly serves the ski resorts in the Sälen/Trysil area during the winter season.