Transforming Air Traffic Management

Saab’s revolutionary Remote Tower concept promises a completely new approach to Air Traffic Management at airports. While not changing the proven routines and procedures of Air Traffic Control itself, it uses the latest high-technology digital sensors and visual display systems to increase traffic capacity and enhance safety & efficiency by improving the controllers’ situational awareness. This could act as a force multiplier for India’s regional airports, enabling multiple low-cost, no-frills airports to be controlled from regional hubs.

The most striking feature of the Remote Tower is that it can eliminate the requirement at every airport of a traditional control tower, which provides direct line of-sight views of the whole airport area through its windows. Instead, the Air Traffic Control centre can be sited wherever is most convenient: at ground level, underground, even off the airport completely and tens or hundreds of kilometres away. With modern communications systems, distance is not a problem. And the space saved releases valuable airport real estate.

Fixed high-definition video cameras mounted on one or more masts provide the primary visual information needed by the Air Traffic Control, giving a complete 360° overview of the airport, whatever its size. These cameras are complemented by magnifying pan/tilt/zoom cameras, which the controller can direct to any item of interest. Moreover, Infra red cameras can provide excellent images even in darkness, fog, rainstorms and sandstorms. 

In the control centre, the camera pictures are displayed panoramically on a semi-circular wall of TV screens in front of the controller’s desk. Other sensors transmit radar data, meteorological data and surface-movement information. The controller’s work position incorporates data screens displaying integrated flight data and electronic flight strips, and provides air and ground radio links. At larger airports, separate role-based camera views can be supplied for air and ground traffic.

“Saab is redefining the future of Air Traffic Management. Currently our products and services serve 18 of the 20 busiest airports in the world, including JFK, Dublin, London, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm. Our Digital Tower Solutions represent the next revolution in air traffic control, enabling air traffic services to be provided more efficiently for any airport, from any remote location”, says Jan Widerström, Chairman and Managing Director of Saab India.

Ten Years of Development

The Remote Tower Services system has been jointly developed by Saab and the Swedish Air Navigation Service Provider, LFV, since 2005; then tested at Swedish airports since 2008, in parallel with conventional systems.

The Remote Tower Services system has been developed jointly by Saab and the Swedish Air Navigation Service Provider, LFV, since 2005; then tested at Swedish airports since 2008 in parallel with conventional systems.

Örnsköldsvik Airport in Sweden became the world’s first remotely managed airport in the world in April 2015 as Saab’s Remote Tower was taken into operation. Sweden’s Sundsvall Timrå Airport and Linköping City Airport will follow in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In 2015 Saab signed a contract with the Irish Aviation Authority to deliver a Remote Tower Centre to Dublin Airport and corresponding remote tower installations at Cork and Shannon Airports. At Amsterdam’s Schiphol, one of Europe’s largest and busiest airports, an ancillary remote-camera system is now being used to provide effective surveillance of the more remote landing runways and taxiing areas.

 Saab’s Remote Tower Services (RTS) system is a fully scalable system, equally suitable for major international airports, single regional airports or local airport clusters.  It could help transform India’s aviation landscape in coming years, by supporting quick and efficient development of India’s many regional airports.