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London City air traffic control to transfer to remote tower

London City airport is to become the first site in the UK to have its air traffic control service transferred to a remote tower.

The shift will take place in 2019, says UK air navigation service NATS.

London City's remote tower will be constructed at an operations room at the UK's main area control centre at Swanwick, some 110km south-west of the London airport.

This operations room will provide a panoramic live view of the airport transmitted by 14 high-definition cameras and two pan-tilt-zoom cameras mounted on a new structure.

NATS says the digital tower will be developed by Saab's specialised remote-tower arm, Digital Air Traffic Solutions, and replace a 30-year old tower at London City.

"The cameras will provide a full 360° view of the airfield in a level of detail greater than the human eye, and with new viewing tools that will modernise and improve air traffic management," it adds.

London City chief executive Declan Collier says the current tower is "reaching the end of its operational lifespan".

The remote tower view will enable controllers to overlay the airport image with augmentations including weather and radar data, aircraft identification tags, and tracking capabilities.

"Digital towers are going to transform the way air traffic services are provided at airports by providing real safety, operational and efficiency benefits," says NATS airports director Mike Stoller.

NATS is committing heavily to remote-tower technology, having recently opted to invest in a Canadian company, Searidge Technologies, which is involved with digital tower strategies. The investment means NATS becomes a joint and equal partner in the company alongside Canadian counterpart Nav Canada.

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