London City First in UK to Get Remote Air Traffic Control

Personnel demonstrate tracking equipment at National Air Traffic Services Swanwick in Hampshire which will direct aircraft at London City Airport

London City Airport is to become the first United Kingdom airport to install a digital air traffic control tower, with its planes controlled from 80 miles away.

Mike Stoller, director of airports at NATS said: "Digital towers are going to transform the way air traffic services are provided at airports by providing real safety, operational and efficiency benefits".

The tools used in the digital tower are expected to enhance air traffic controllers' situational awareness, allowing them to take quick and informed decisions.

It has already been tested in Australia, Sweden, Norway and Ireland.

Construction of the tower is due to be completed in 2018, followed by more than a year of rigorous testing and training, during which the existing 30-year old tower will continue to operate.

Pictures from the airfield and data will be sent through independent and secure fibre networks to the operations room in Swanwick, the airport said.

An architectural drawing of the London City Airport's 50-metre digital tower.

Air traffic controllers at Swanwick centre will have access to live footage displayed on the 14 HD screens, which will display a seamless panoramic moving image, in addition to the audio feed from the airfield and radar readings from the London airspace.

The control tower in Swanwick will house three people per shift, the same number of controllers now working in London.

The airport chief executive Declan Collier added he was confident the system would be immune from the threat of cyber attacks.

'No chief executive is complacent about threats from cyber security.

NATS is committing heavily to remote-tower technology, having recently opted to invest in a Canadian company, Searidge Technologies, which is involved with digital tower strategies.

London City Airport has announced it is to become the first United Kingdom airport to build and operate a digital air traffic control tower, with a multi-million pound investment in the technology.

Some 4.5million passengers used London City Airport a year ago. It will then be tested for a year before it becomes fully operational in 2019.

The system will enable the airport to re-locate air-traffic controllers 80 miles off-site, enabling an extension to terminal buildings increasing its annual capacity by two million passengers a year by 2025.

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