The Stack Archive

Remote air traffic control system unveiled

Tue 12 Jul 2016

Air Traffic Control

Swedish defence and security company Saab has unveiled a new remote air traffic control (ATC) system intended to reduce airport delays and increase controller efficiency. The new remote ATC system allows air traffic controllers to work offsite and at more than one location simultaneously, and is already being tested in several countries.

Traditionally, air traffic control is accomplished by a group of on-site specialists, located in a tower on the runway of the airport where they are assigned. The Saab remote ATC system allows air traffic controllers to be physically located in an office miles away, working for several different airports at the same time. The office consists of a circular room with 360 degree coverage in wall screens, to emulate the traditional tower setup. Cameras on the landing strip provide real-time footage of airplane activity using infrared technology to heighten visuals, and motion-tracking software to follow incoming traffic. Saab claims that this represents an improvement to on-site monitoring, actually providing better information to air traffic controllers. As its website states, “The concept enables new tools and features such as enhanced situational awareness, object tracking and alerting, night vision and image enhancement – this provides the air traffic controller with a better decision basis than a conventional set-up.”

“As we can see here at Farnborough this year, this is live and working and we’re ready to take the next step,” said Anders Carp, the head of Saab’s traffic management unit, who was present for the demonstration at Farnborough. “In terms of efficiency, we see this will help to support air traffic controllers … and get a much smoother throughput for aircraft.” Using the remote ATC, Saab hopes to make traditional on-site air traffic controlling obsolete by 2025.

On June 29, the Swedish aviation authority LFV approved the formation of a subsidiary company dedicated to the production of ATC systems, called Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions. Saab also offers the Aerobahn suite of products, intended to promote airline efficiency and collaboration in airports, providing scheduling optimization for everything from departure time control to scheduling ground handlers to meet planes for efficient baggage handling.

The remote controlled system has been used in Sweden since April 2015. Two UK sites, are currently testing the system. Air traffic in the airports at Cork and Shannon in Ireland is currently controlled by a remote tower located in Dublin. Testing will continue until 2017, when local regulators will make a determination on rolling out the system country-wide based on the success of the test. They system is also currently being tested in Schihpol and Groningen in the Netherlands, and at Leesburg, Virginia in the US. Three additional customers, including one from a military authority, are currently negotiating contracts, two of which are expected to begin testing by the end of the year.


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