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Friday, Jan 27, 2023

London City becomes first major airport to control air traffic remotely

London City becomes first major airport to control air traffic remotely

The move is a change for an industry where planes are generally instructed to take off and land by operators based in the airport.
London City Airport has become the first major international airport to control air traffic remotely.

Planes are being guided from a control tower more than 70 miles away.

A 50m-tall tower has been built at the airport, equipped with 14 high-definition cameras which will feed video and audio back to the remote-control centre in Hampshire, where air traffic controller NATS is based.

The technology was developed by Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions in Sweden, where it was initially tested.

It marks a major change in step for the aviation industry, where planes are generally instructed to take off and land by operators based in the airport.

The airport's chief operating officer Alison FitzGerald said the remote tower aims to improve efficiency and safety.

The runways are viewed on panoramic screens which are overlaid with additional information such as radar and weather data.

According to cybersecurity expert Holly Williams, there are some security risks with controlling air traffic remotely, but they can be managed by ensuring a rigorous testing process is implemented.

City Airport's Ms FitzGerald said all the key components are replicated, so in the "rare event there's a failure of one particular part of the system, there's always a backup".

The new technology is being viewed as a major step forward in aviation.

Alan Newbold is the Global Digital Aviation leader at the engineering consultancy firm Arup. He believes that "from a progress point of view it's absolutely on the money".

Airports, he said, will need to be increasingly driven and informed by data, so it is vital operators have the "right information at the touch of a button" to reduce risk and improve resilience.

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