An airport in Sweden is using remote tower technology to land planes via television screens, leading the way to a “new era in air traffic control”
Örnsköldsvik airport in the north-east of Sweden has no air control tower of its own, yet is able to land its passenger aircraft from a control office at Sundsvall, one of Sweden’s central airports located nearly 100km miles away, using advanced air control technology.
The Remote Tower System created by Saab, the Swedish defence and security company, allows high definition images, and all other relevant real-time data of the regional airport to be projected onto television screens – thought to be more useful than windows – at the Remote Tower Centre (RTC), the remote air control office in Sundsvall.
A simulated digital visual of what one might see from a local control tower when looking out onto the runway is created at the RTC using data collected by several high-tech devices including “ high definition and pan-tilt zoom cameras, surveillance and meteorological sensors, microphones, signal light guns and other devices for deployment at the airport ”.
As the plane is seen on the screen descending towards the runway, you can hear it descend through a stereo sound system, NPR reports .
Flight safety clearance for the technical and operational procedures of this new technology, which was initially installed at Örnsköldsvik in 2013, was approved by the Swedish Transport Agency last year and it is the first approved application of remote tower technology in the world. This summer, an RTC will be installed at Leesburg Executive Airport, a local airport in Virginia, making it the first remote-controlled airport in the US.
The new system is said to provide “enhanced situational awareness” for air traffic controllers, with new features including object tracking and alerting, night vision and image enhancement. The use of television screens have been noted to be, in some ways, more helpful than windows in towers, allowing controllers quick access to an onscreen display of plane statistics, runway incursion warnings as well as allowing them to zoom in or switch to an infrared view of the runway to see through thick fog and darkness. The new technology could also provide a safer alternative for air traffic controllers having to land planes at airports in dangerous locations, NPR reports.
Developers are hoping the remote tower technology will be a cost-effective solution for air traffic control by cutting out the operational and building costs of air traffic services at smaller airports and optimise “the flow and safety for multiple airports”.
Erik Backman, an air control manager at Sundsvall airport, wasn’t entirely sold on the idea back in 2004 after being shown an initial mock-up of the project, saying the control room would have to be dark and the images provided onscreen could be too jumpy. But the airport has been landing planes remotely without any major problems so far, NPR reports.
The passengers as well as the pilot will have no knowledge of whether the plane was landed by a remote control centre or an on site control tower.
“For the air traffic controller, this is like airline pilots going from propeller to jet,” Mikael Henriksson, the project manager who has been an air traffic controller for nearly 40 years, told NPR.
“It’s a paradigm shift,” he added.
The remote technology installed at Örnsköldsvik joins a host of advanced features and facilities being planned at various airports in the future, including the Norman Foster-designed Mexico City International Airport which aims to be the world’s most sustainable airport, using minimal energy, offering an efficient passenger experience with shorter walking distances.
The redevelopment of Singapore’s Changi Airport will continue this year with the construction of a new terminal building – the Jewel Changi. The giant doughnut-shaped glass and steel dome complex will be built connecting the airport’s existing three terminals via glass walkways. Its centre piece, the Rain Vortex, is set to be the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. The building will also be home to one of the world’s largest indoor plant collections, while the upper level will house Canopy Park, 13,000 square metres of gardens, walking trails, playgrounds and dining venues. It will take several years to complete.
The Istanbul New Airport, which will replace the city’s current Ataturk Airport, will feature six runways and the world’s largest airport terminal under one roof, covering a floor space of around a million square metres.
This article was written by Soo Kim from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.