Digital Towers

It’s now more than a year since London City Airport successfully transitioned to a digital tower and began controlling flights from a brand-new remote-control centre, based in Swanwick.

Now, instead of sitting in a physical tower based at London City Airport, a dedicated team of controllers manage the runway through sixteen high-definition cameras and sensors mounted on a mast, capturing a 360-degree view of the City Airport airfield.

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Increasingly, its technology that is allowing airports to unlock the next level of capability and performance, something that will be increasingly important for the Greater Bay Area as the Chinese government aims to grow the region into a world-leading transportation hub.

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Being able to detect and report the weather is important for a tower controller, so they can understand the effects it will have on the operation and procedures. This skill is even more valuable when controlling from a digital tower, where you are not actually where the weather is.

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Earlier this year we started a project looking at whether we could apply a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ultra-HD camera technology to help cut weather- related delays at Heathrow. Here’s an update on what we’re doing next.

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I was in Brussels last month for Eurocontrol’s Artificial Intelligence in Aviation event for a chance to cut through the hype and look at real, practical ways in which this disruptive technology can help transform how the aviation industry works, and the challenges that exist in getting there.  

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Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd provides a vital service for local communities in Scotland. Having a strong, considered and sustainable plan that ensures its airports stay open and viable is at the heart of HIAL’s new ATM strategy, which is why, among other changes to controlled airspace and radar technology, it includes the use of digital control towers.

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Digital towers are one of the hottest topics around the industry at the moment, so last week we asked our LinkedIn followers to fire their burning questions at us for us to answer. So here they are.

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It’s usually the first question that leaves people’s lips whenever we show them the new digital tower facility at Swanwick – is it really safe?

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Excitement is building in the aviation industry around digital ‘remote’ towers and the benefits they can offer to airports; from costs savings through to safety and operational enhancements. But I can tell you from hard experience that this wasn’t always the case.

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