London City airport to introduce ‘remote digital air traffic control’

London City airport to introduce ‘remote digital air traffic control’

London City airport is to become the first in the UK to replace on-site air traffic controllers with a remotely operated digital system.

Instead of sitting in a tower overlooking the runway, controllers will be 80 miles away, watching live footage from high-definition cameras.

The new system, due to be completed in 2018, will be tested for a year before becoming fully operational in 2019.

It has already been trialled in Australia, Sweden, Norway and Ireland.

The technology has been developed by Swedish defence and security company Saab.

It is being introduced as part of a £350 million development to upgrade the Docklands airport which will also include an extended terminal building, enabling it to serve two million more passengers a year by 2025.

The system will provide controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield via 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom.

The cameras will send a live feed via fibre cables to a new operations room built at the Hampshire base of air traffic control provider Nats.

The airport is planning to decommission its traditional tower in 2019, replacing it with a new 164ft digital tower – 104ft taller than the existing one.

Airport chief executive Declan Collier said he is “absolutely confident” that the system is safe from the threat of a cyber attack.

“No chief executive is complacent about threats from cyber security,” he told the BBC.

“But we are very confident that the systems we’re putting in place here are secure, they’re safe, they’re managed very well.”

The system made its world debut in Sweden at Ornskoldsvik airport, where flights have been controlled by a remote tower in Sundsvall, 110 miles away, since 2015.

Nats airports director Mike Stoller said: “Digital towers are going to transform the way air traffic services are provided at airports by providing real safety, operational and efficiency benefits.

“We do see this as being a growing market place across the UK and the world.”

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