London airport installs UK’s first digital air traffic control tower
19 May 2017
The London City Airport digital tower will have a live feed with a panoramic view of the airfield using HD cameras with vision greater than the human eye.
Working with NATs, a UK provider of air traffic control services, London City Airport has approved plans for the 50m tower with expected completion scheduled for 2018. The tower will become fully operational in 2019.
At the top of the tower will sit 14 high definition cameras and two pan-tilt-zoom cameras. The cameras will provide a 360° 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.
The images of the airfield and data will be sent via independent and secure super-fast fibre networks to a brand new operations room at the NATS control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire. From Swanwick, air traffic controllers will perform their operational role, using the live footage displayed on 14 HD screens that form a seamless panoramic moving image, alongside the audio feed from the airfield, and radar readings from the skies above London, to instruct aircraft and oversee movements.
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.
“With London City Airport’s plans to grow and an existing tower which is reaching the end of its operational lifespan, this cutting edge proven technology future-proofs London City Airport’s air traffic control for the next 30 years and beyond.”
Mike Stoller, Director, 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, and we are delighted that London City Airport has chosen to work with us to deliver what will be the first of its kind in the UK.”
The state-of-the-art technology from Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions, which is tried and tested and already in use at Örnsköldsvik and Sundsvall airports in Sweden, offers several advantages for efficient air traffic management at London City Airport.
Controllers will be able to utilise a range of viewing tools such as high definition zoom and enhanced visuals, which provide detailed views of activity on the airfield, including close-up views of aircraft movements along the 1500m runway, with pan-tilt-zoom cameras that can magnify up to 30 times for close inspection.
They will also have real-time information, including operational and sensory data, to build an augmented reality live view of the airfield. For example, the ability to overlay the images with weather information, on-screen labels, radar data, aircraft call signs, or to track moving objects.
The sophisticated tools of a digital set-up significantly improve a controller’s situational awareness, enabling quick and informed decisions that thereby offer safety and operational benefits for the airport.
Following a record-breaking 4.5 million passengers in 2016, London City Airport will become the first airport in the UK to introduce a digital tower.