A tower far, far away

This first appeared as a Comment in the 7 January issue of Flight International

En-route and regional air traffic control is provided remotely, and nobody thinks twice about that. But aerodrome ATC has to be on site because it’s visual. Or at least that used to be true until now.
Saab Sensis, backed by LFW, the Swedish air navigation service provider (ANSP), has created a virtual visual control room with 360° displays fed in real time by camera arrays at the top of masts located on the airfields to be controlled. And this virtual tower, equipped with a standard workstation displaying inputs from airfield meteorological sensors, can be hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away.
Remote airfields with very little traffic can, in good visibility, manage without ATC. Although that becomes unacceptable when the flights include commercial public transport services, however few, the cost of a fully functioning and manned control tower may not be viable, even if the community relies on an air link for survival.
The safety improvement that remote towers have the potential to bring by enabling high-quality ATC at remote locations is welcome. But with a little imagination, an ANSP could study the commercial potential of setting up a national or even world centre of excellence in 24h remote control centre operation.

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