London City will be first to install remote air traffic control

Ivan Schwartz
May 19, 2017

London City Airport is set to become the first British airport to install a remotely operated digital air traffic control system, breaking with the century-long tradition of manned control towers.

The innovative plans are a flagship moment in the airport's thirtieth anniversary year, and mark the start of a technological revolution in United Kingdom airport air traffic management.

The new system has been developed by Swedish defence company Saab and will be installed over the next year and subject to testing before going live in 2019.

Controllers will be connected to the airfield by 14 high-definition cameras, with two that are able to pan, tilt and zoom in.

The state-of-the-art technology from Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions, which is tried and tested and already in use at Örnsköldsvik and Sundsvall airports in Sweden, offers several advantages for efficient air traffic management at London City Airport.

While construction work on the tower is slated to commence later this year, it is due to be completed in 2018.

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Staff will monitor planes with the help of high-tech 360-degree cameras and sensors fitted to a newly constructed tower, with data and a panoramic views all feeding through to the national air traffic control centre in the southern town of Swanwick.

Controllers will use the footage alongside an audio feed of ambient noise from the airfield and radar readings from the skies above London to instruct aircraft and oversee movements.

Declan Collier, London City Airport chief executive, told the BBC he was "absolutely confident" the system would be safe from the threat of a cyber attack. At 900 miles, the distance between the two airports is over 10 times bigger than that separating London City and Swanwick.

"No chief executive is complacent about threats from cyber security", he said. Paul Winstanley, chair of the Prospect union's air traffic controllers' branch welcomed the change but warned it would have to be introduced gradually.

London City Airport opened in the late-1980s as part of the redevelopment of Canary Wharf.

He said: "A pioneering new digital air traffic control tower system will enhance safety and improve resilience, setting a new standard for the global aviation industry to follow". The tower will be located in the airport's current long-stay vehicle park at the midway point of the runway.

Other reports by GizPress

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