London airport to get first digital air traffic control

Nats personnel give a demonstration in the operations room at National Air Traffic Services Swanwick in Hampshire

Nats personnel give a demonstration in the operations room at National Air Traffic Services Swanwick in Hampshire

London City airport is to become the first site in the United Kingdom to have its air traffic control service transferred to a remote tower.

The airport has collaborated with the UK's air navigation service provider (ANSP), NATS, to approve plans for the new Saab-developed digital air traffic solution, which will be operational in 2019.

The innovative plans are a flagship moment in the airport's thirtieth anniversary year, and mark the start of a technological revolution in United Kingdom airport air traffic management. All of the cameras offer close-up views and the two pan-tilt-zoom cameras can magnify up to 30 times.

The technology has already been tested in Australia, Sweden, Norway and Ireland.

Construction of the "digital" tower will begin later this year and is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

These will send a live audio and visual feed back to a new operations room in Hampshire run by Nats, the UK's air-traffic control organisation, which handles around 2.3 million flights into, and out of, the United Kingdom every year.

Pictures from the airfield and data will be sent through independent and secure fibre networks to the operations room in Swanwick, the airport said.

The airport is planning to decommission its traditional tower in 2019, replacing it with a new 164ft (50m) digital tower - 104ft (32m) taller than the existing one.

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An architectural drawing of the London City Airport's 50-metre digital tower.

London City Airport chief executive Declan Collier insisted he is "absolutely confident" the system is safe from the threat of a cyber attack.

"No chief executive is complacent about threats from cyber security", he said. Staff will also have an audio feed from the airfield and radar readings to help them manage takeoffs and landings.

The control tower in Swanwick will house three people per shift, the same number of controllers now working in London.

It comes as the airport starts construction on its £350m City Airport development programme, aimed to bring in two million more passengers per year by 2025.

"We do see this as being a growing market place across the United Kingdom and the world".

Following a record-breaking 4.5 million passengers in 2016, London City Airport will become the first airport in the United Kingdom to introduce a digital tower.

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