Remote towers trialled at three German airports

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German air navigation service provider DFS is planning to remotely operate the airport towers at Saarbrucken, Erfurt and Dresden from its ATC centre in Leipzig.

Remote-tower operations use real-time video transmissions and a range of other sensors – such as meteorological equipment, motion detectors and night-vision infrared cameras – to monitor aircraft movements at airports and provide full ATC coverage from a separate location.

The technology is being tested at a number of international locations – especially small airports where aircraft movements are few and far between – to enable controllers to handle flights at multiple airports and thus use resources more efficiently.

DFS has requested proposals for installation of such a system at Saarbrucken airport in southwest Germany. The regional hub is to be controlled from Leipzig airport, located about 450km (240nm) to the northeast.

After the supplier will be selected in mid-2014, the system is to be tested in 2016. If the validation is successful, DFS says, the system will also be installed at the airports of Erfurt and Dresden by 2018.

DFS adds that the system could be rolled out across additional locations.

Saarbrucken airport suffered a 15.5% decline in IFR traffic to just over 10,000 aircraft movements in 2012, while traffic fell nearly a third to 4,400 take-offs and landings. That same year, Dresden generated about 25,800 movements, 7.3% fewer than in the previous year.

DFS declined to specify the expected savings from centralising control of all three airports. At Saarbrucken, Erfurt and Dresden, the ANSP employs 12, 13 and 18 air traffic controllers respectively, as well as additional support staff.