Virtual control tower for Fort Collins-Loveland

Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport has been selected as the official test facility for a new air traffic control system by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The virtual tower technology will employ ground-based video and aircraft ground detection components to provide data monitored by air traffic controllers working in a central off-airport location.

The high-tech array will provide an enhanced level of air safety at a cost dramatically lower than the expense required to construct and staff a traditional air traffic control tower, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The project’s $5.9 million test phase is funded by the Colorado Aviation Fund, which is supported solely through the collection of aviation fuel taxes administered by CDOT’s Division of Aeronautics.

The equipment necessary for the testing is expected to be installed at the Fort Collins-Loveland airport by spring, with initial testing and assessments of the new technology commencing shortly thereafter.

“This CDOT Aeronautics Division-led initiative to test virtual air traffic control technology in Colorado will further solidify CDOT and the Colorado Division of Aeronautics as a national leader in airspace technology innovation, enhancing aviation safety, capacity and efficiency, while minimizing the overall capital and operating costs,” said David Ulane, director of the state aeronautics division.

Ulane tells Air Traffic Management: “The exact technology to be used will be developed and determined over the winter, with the goal of beginning infrastructure installation in late spring 2016.”

“This will greatly enhance aviation safety at the airport,” said Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez. “With that, opportunities for commercial air service, and economic development both on and off the airport, will open up. This is a major step forward for our regional airport and its newly created airport authority board.”

The FAA’s NextGen Office coordinated with CDOT’s aeronautics division to develop a selection process for determining the airport facility location for the test. The site-selection process considered airspace type, existing airport infrastructure and runway configuration, daily aircraft operation levels, aircraft traffic mix, accessibility to a major airport and local stakeholder support.

The process concluded with Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport and Durango-La Plata County Regional Airport as the front-runners for the official test-facility locations. Fort Collins-Loveland ultimately was chosen in part because of its close proximity to the FAA Approach and area control centres located in Denver and Longmont.

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