London City unveils plans for digital control tower

19 May, 2017, 17:32 | Author: Leticia Walters
  • Personnel in the operations room at National Air Traffic Services Swanwick

London City is to become the first United Kingdom airport to replace its air traffic controllers with a remotely operated digital system.

The ground controllers will be moved to digital viewing rooms at the Swanwick base of Nats, Britain's air traffic control provider.

The new system is set to be completed by 2018.

The 360-degree view has been condensed into a 225-degree arc, meaning that controllers can effectively see what is behind them, while the cameras will also provide live audio from the airfield.

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

A digital control tower will be installed in 2019 - meaning controllers will be able to guide planes from 80 miles away in Hampshire by watching live footage from high-definition cameras.

In a first for a United Kingdom airport, the tower will feature 14 HD cameras and two pan-tilt-zoom cameras, providing a 360-degree view of the airfield "in a level of detail greater than the human eye and with new viewing tools that will modernise and improve air traffic management".

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

Declan Collier, CEO at London City Airport, said: "A pioneering new digital air traffic control system will enhance safety and improve resilience, setting a new standard for the global aviation industry to follow".

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

An architectural drawing of the London City Airport's 50-metre digital tower. Information which occupies a number of screens in a traditional control tower will instead overlay the live feed, allowing controllers to see all the identifying flight information and radar information. Paul Winstanley, chair of the Prospect union's air traffic controllers' branch welcomed the change but warned it would have to be introduced gradually.

Construction of the 50-metre digital tower will begin later this year on a site located in the airport's long-stay auto park.

The airport, which is undergoing a 350 million pound ($455 million) expansion, is located near the Canary Wharf financial centre in east London and used by over 4.5 million passengers mainly for business travel between Europe's major centres. A year of testing and training will follow, before a full switchover in 2019.

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