Sweden approves remote-tower technology

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Swedens air navigation service provider LFV will by October control air traffic movements at Ornskoldsvik airport from its remote-tower centre at Sundsvall, following approval today by Sweden’s aviation authority of Saab Sensis technology.

Progressively, more small airfields in Sweden and Norway will be remotely controlled, but Ornskoldsvik is to be the first.

The technology enables aerodromes that handle only small numbers of essential commercial flights for remote communities 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 under surveillance: the on-site installation is a tall mast on which video cameras, microphones, meteororological instruments and other sensors are mounted. The data from these is streamed in real time to the virtual visual control room at the ATC centre, which can provide ATC services at a number of small aerodromes by switching its data feed to the relevant airport when a movement is due.

At the Sundsvall centre, the controller has access to a 360° display view of what the on-site cameras “see”, plus directional sound from moving aircraft. Saab Sensis vice-president marketing David Kovarik says controllers have all the visual and communication inputs they would have on site, as well as enhanced vision on their displays in poor visibility and infrared at night.

He adds that Australia is reviewing the possibility of controlling Alice Springs airport from Adelaide.

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