Understanding needs and benefits, case by case.
Through innovation and technology development, Remote Towers – or Digital Towers – have emerged as an alternative to Visual Control Towers. By installing cameras and sensors in the airport vicinity, the airport and controllers’ environments are replicated in a Remote Centre. A controller can then, sat remotely from the airport’s location, control aircraft at their designated airport or potentially at multiple remote airports at the same time (known as ‘multi-mode’ operations). This multi-mode operation has the potential to deliver economies of scale; whilst on its own, a new Remote Centre could provide more flexible and resilient staffing options as well as lower maintenance costs for new infrastructure.
Other operational benefits are also available. Situational awareness can be improved through data overlays and zoom functions on the controllers’ screens; capacity can be increased through the use of infrared cameras during Low Visibility Operations; business continuity can be secured through the Remote Centre’s use as a contingency facility.
The potential of Remote Towers may therefore provide an attractive alternative to Visual Control Towers for both small and large airports alike. However, it is not itself without challenges. Each implementation must be assessed on a case-by-case basis to understand whether it will truly benefit the airport in question. After all, it requires significant change to an airport’s and ANSP’s operating environment; it requires significant capital expenditure, social considerations must not be underestimated, and the introduction of new data and communication links introduces both safety and cyber risks that must be addressed.