With hundreds of air traffic control (ATC) towers in the U.S. alone, many of which are aging and in need of replacement, a remote approach can offer a cost savings in both construction and operation as well as provide a better solution where space or a clear view is limited. Remote, digitally controlled towers are already at work in the U.S. and abroad, and the trend is expected to continue with 11 new remote towers on track to open by the end of this year. The Scandinavian Mountains Airport in Sweden, which opened in 2019, was the first new airport to be built without a traditional tower. Larger airports, such as London City Airport, have also implemented remote towers to reinforce and increase the service provided by an existing traditional ATC tower.
Whether on site or miles away from an airport, these remote ATC rooms can perform all the typical operations with added benefits such as having a plane identified onscreen with information including the aircraft identification, beacon code and altitude. Displayed on a videowall that is nearly identical to what they would see from a tower, the system can also identify onscreen where aircraft are located even in weather conditions with little to no visibility. Additionally, for airports with less traffic, one remote location can service more than one airport location, switching between locations when flights are scheduled accordingly.
With so much on the line, top notch AV equipment is required to ensure the most timely and accurate information is always on hand. Infrared and PTZ cameras as well as sensors can be mounted on existing infrastructure or on installed masts to provide a clear view of the airfield and give air traffic controllers a complete view on the large-scale high definition curved videowall. Cameras must be able to operate in very low light as well as very bright conditions. With so many required inputs including multiple cameras and sensors, premium video processing equipment needs to be utilized. Last, but definitely not least, security is vital with AV-over-IP and fiber being top contenders for safe data transmission.
Recent and continued advancements in technology along with cost savings will most certainly continue to drive the demand for remote ATC towers. These specialized control rooms will each present unique challenges based on their surrounding landscape, local weather conditions, air traffic and other variables. With careful planning and by learning from already existing remote air control towers, today’s advanced AV systems can provide the tools to successfully implement remote ATC towers around the world.