Air Traffic Management is revolutionized by Remote Tower Control
The Swedish Air Navigation Service Provider (LFV) and Saab were the first in the world to put remote air traffic control towers into operation. After ten years’ development work this innovative system is now going international.
Air traffic control has looked much the same since the Second World War. High towers, various technical systems and binoculars have been important elements of an activity which, for natural reasons, has been characterised by stringent safety requirements and regulatory control. At the same time the need for cost-efficiency is growing, and many small airports in sparsely populated areas are threatened with closure. In a small airport air traffic control can account for 30-40 per cent of the operating costs. This was the reason why Saab and LFV started to collaborate in 2006 in the search for a more efficient way of handling air traffic control in Sweden. It would take ten years of intensive development work to realise the vision of a remote tower system and take the technology overseas with successful test installations in several countries.
“Today even large airports may need to invest in a remote tower system and other digital services linked to air traffic management, but when we started the venture it was because small airports were disproportionately expensive to operate,” says Niclas Gustavsson, Director of Business Development and International Relations at LFV.
Since April 2015 the air traffic control tower at Örnsköldsvik airport in northern Sweden has been empty with the curtains drawn. There are cameras and sensors located at the airport to record what is happening instead. A data network is used to digitally transfer images and data to a new facility in Sundsvall, where the air traffic controllers manage Örnsköldvik airport at a distance.
There is a row of large 55-inch screens hanging on the walls with images and a window-like 360-degree view over the airport 150 kilometres away.