October 21, 2011

Saab’s Remotely Operated Tower

News Report

As illustrated in a recent press release, technical as well as operational issues were discussed during Saab’s last Remote Tower Symposium held in Malmö, in which Saab Sales Director for Air Traffic Management Solutions, Per Ahl, described the current status of Saab’s system for air traffic control from a distance.

During the symposium, Avinor, the Norwegian Air Navigation Services Provider and operator of several Norwegian airports, explained how Remote Tower operations can help it to meet the requirements of 24-hour services and to maintain airports over the whole country.

The System

The cost of running small and medium-sized airports consists largely of personnel costs. With the Remote Tower concept, fewer employees are needed to provide aerodrome control service, enabling airports that currently offer only Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS) to offer a control service as well. In a secondary phase, one controller could potentially provide aerodrome control service for two to three towers simultaneously. Apart from staffing, costs savings can be achieved through not having to replace existing towers that have reached the end of their economically viable service life.

Saab's Remotely Operated Tower enables an airport tower to be remotely operated via the digital network. Compressed data from cameras at the airport provides a 360-degree real-time view of the airport at the Remote Tower Centre. The controller working position is equipped with the same controls as in a normal tower. The technology also increases safety by – for example – automatic video tracking of incoming aircraft, advanced zoom cameras and the ability to mark runway contours, structures and other objects at the airport so that it is possible to see them even in conditions of limited visibility.

The list of key components of Saab's Remote Operated Tower includes the following ones:
  • Up to 360 degrees of live LCD or projected airfield image
  • Airfield stereo sound
  • Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera and signal light gun controls
  • Automatic Weather Observation system, AWOS
  • Integrated tower systems control
  • Remote Control Monitoring system, RCMS (Airport lights, ILS, NDB, VOR, VHF/UHF, Communication)
  • Flight Data Processing system, FDP
  • Radar Data Processing and Display system, RDP
  • Electronic Flight Progress Strip system, e-Strip
  • Record and Replay System for video, audio and flight information
  • System redundancy
The Remote Tower concept is perfectly suited for contingency at medium and large-sized airports. It offers a more cost-efficient solution than a contingency tower, with the freedom to place the control anywhere at the airport.

The Context

In 2006, Saab and the Swedish Air Navigation Services Provider, LFV, engaged in a project named Remotely Operated Tower (ROT). The aim of the project was to prove the concept of remotely performing air traffic services. Ängelholm airport was chosen as the target airport. The Remote Tower Centre (RTC) was located at Malmö airport, approximately 100km away. The ROT trials where successfully concluded at the beginning of 2009. During the final month of the trials, air traffic controllers validated the platform in advanced shadow mode trials. The project was awarded the Jane's Airport Review Industry Award during the ATC Global 2010 exhibition in Amsterdam.

Since Saab hosted the first Remote Tower symposium two years ago, a lot has happened. The technology has been improved and fine-tuned, and the operational requirements have been further discussed. Airservices Australia has signed a contract for Remote Tower trials, and the Swedish Air Navigation Services Provider LFV is setting up a system in Sundsvall and Örnsköldsvik in the north of Sweden.


We are dependent on airport services day and night," said an Avinor delegate, "in case of emergencies we need to be able to deliver services at short notice. Also, it is important for the local communities that the network of airports across Norway is kept open, and more cost-efficient provision of services will help to make this possible.

References: Saab (1,2)

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