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Digital airports herald departure of control towers

Graeme paton | The times | 4 april 2016

PA Consulting Group’s Anders Adrem, a transport expert, is quoted in an article in The Times on the future of air traffic control towers which are set to transform airport traffic services.

Anders explains how the towers could be dismantled from airports within a generation as digital landing technology is introduced.  The towers will be replaced by cameras and sensors next to the landing strip to boost efficiency.
While UK air traffic control chiefs are currently exploring opportunities to develop the technology in Britain, a Swedish airport - Örnsköldsvik – has become the first in the world to install an unmanned tower.

The article explains that the remote system works by 14 high-definition cameras and sensors spotting aircraft while the images are monitored almost 100 miles away by air traffic controllers watching a bank of screens. PA has been helping to develop the system.

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Anders says: “The development will be very fast since we already have the first one up and running in Sweden. I think they will take off from around 2020 onwards.” Anders goes on to explain that the system was at least 50 per cent cheaper to set up and operate than a conventional tower.

He goes on to say that controllers manning one centre could in theory watch over multiple remote towers, particularly those used for smaller airports. He continues: “Towers have to be replaced and the cost is cut by more than half if you go over to a digital tower. The idea is that you have one air traffic controller in a centre that controls more than one airport.

The first remote tower was installed at Örnsköldsvik a year ago and is operated by controllers 90 miles away in Sundsvall. The same team will soon monitor remote images from two other sites in Sweden.

Anders Adrem

Anders Adrem, Aviation consulting Connect Email

The Aviation consulting team Email +44 (0) 207 333 6185

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