Coming Soon: Remote Control Towers

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Two airports in northern Sweden are set to become the first test sites for remotely operated control towers. The system, which is being developed by Saab, will consist of an 82-foot-tall structure topped by a bank of cameras that will beam a 360-degree panoramic high-definition image to a control center located miles away. The array also includes microphones that transmit stereo sound from the airfield, meteorological sensors, and a light-gun signal that can be operated remotely. Center controllers will sit at the center of a 360-degree wraparound screen, and will be able to zoom and pan the images. The system aims to save on costs by consolidating service for smaller airports. The two towers in Sweden are expected to go online next year.

The system's sophisticated interface will provide controllers with improved situational awareness compared to today's analog towers, according to Saab. The images employ several types of image enhancement, including the ability to label moving objects, impose a geographical overlay during low visibility, and "radar and video sensor fusion." A demo project was successfully concluded in 2009, according to Saab. The project was awarded the Jane's Airport Review Industry Award during the ATC Global 2010 exhibition in Amsterdam.