Saab remote-tower technologies to enter service next year

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"Remote tower" technology under development by Saab for seven years has been validated by Sweden's civil aviation authority, and its commercial operation is to begin by March 2014.

The technology enables aerodromes that handle small numbers of essential commercial flights to be provided with high standards of air traffic control from an ATC centre hundreds of kilometres away where it is financially viable to maintain a pool of fully qualified controllers.

Additionally, there is no need to build a costly manned tower on the aerodrome: the on-site "tower" simply houses video cameras and other sensors, including meteorological instruments, the data from which is streamed in real time to the virtual visual control room (VCR) at the ATC centre.

There, the controller has a 360° display view of what the on-site cameras "see". Saab Sensis vice-president marketing David Kovarik points out that in the virtual VCR the controllers have all the sensor and communication inputs they would have on site, plus enhanced vision on their displays in poor visibility and infrared at night.

Several remote-tower systems are being deployed in Norway and Sweden, the first to be operational in March 2014, and Australia is reviewing the possibility of controlling Alice Springs airport from Adelaide.

The Remote Tower Center in Sundsvall, Sweden, has passed site-acceptance testing and is now under review by the Swedish transport ministry for certification.

Operational certification for the world's first remote-tower system – at Örnsköldsvik Airport, controlled from Sundsvall – is due in early 2014

Saab has been developing components of the required technologies since 2006, and its acquisition of Sensis in 2011 and HITT (Holland Institute of Traffic Technology) early in 2013 has enhanced its capabilities.