Saab and Airservices Australia sign contract to conduct remote ATM tower trial

Defence and Security Company Saab and Airservices Australia have signed a contract to commence a trial of remotely-operated air traffic control tower technology in Australia later this year.

Remote Tower technology allows air traffic at one or more remote airports to be managed and controlled from a single, larger air traffic services centre at another location. During the trial, Airservices’ staff will control aircraft at Alice Springs from their facility in Adelaide – over 1,500 kilometres away. There will be no change to existing air traffic control arrangements.

On completion of the trial, Airservices will consider introducing the technology at a number of additional airports across Australia, particularly those currently without towers but where aircraft movements are increasing.

The technology has been developed by Saab in conjunction with the Swedish Air Navigation Service provider, LFV, and has already undergone thorough live testing in Sweden. A contract was signed in Sweden earlier this year to provide remote tower services at two airports from one central location. Saab is the first company to deliver such a system.

Per Ahl, Saab Director marketing and sales for ATM, said that Saab is very pleased to continue their excellent relationship with Airservices Australia.

”This is an important breakthrough for Saab’s remotely operated tower solution and will be an important reference for the Asia Pacific region.”

An introduction to remote Air Traffic Management

Camera and sensors are placed at the airports and everything that is detected by them is conveyed in real-time to the remote tower centre where it is projected in a 360o view.

The air traffic controller in the remote tower centre expedites the air traffic in the same way that it would be done from an ordinary control tower. Safety is of the utmost importance; and in many ways, modern technology improves the safety:

· The cameras can register changes in the image that will make hazards like unauthorized vehicles or foreign objects on the runway easier to detect.
· By use of cameras, the air traffic controller can also record occurrences in the airspace and the area surrounding the airport and then replay them in case of an incident.
· A camera with automatic tracking that can zoom in up to 36 times, replaces the traditional binoculars in a regular control tower.
· A video tracking function automatically detects incoming aircraft and marks them on the screen enhancing the following them for the air traffic controller even in limited visibility.
· The contours of the runway, buildings and other objects at the airport can be marked on the screens, enabling the air traffic controller to see them even in limited visibility.

Images from the Zoom camera, radar and weather information are integrally presented in the 360o view, continuously observed by the air traffic controller. This function is similar to that of the head-up display in a fighter aircraft. The air traffic controller does not need to shift focus in order to see the Information.
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