Digital towers: the future of airport ATM

Digital ‘remote’ control towers and artificial intelligence are on the verge of transforming the world of air traffic management, with enormous operational, safety and efficiency benefits for airports all around the world.

Digital towers, advances in artificial intelligence and predictive technologies are going to provide safety, value, operational and resilience benefits to airports and air navigation service providers that were impossible to envisage 10 years ago.

The advent of super-fast fibre networks, high definition cameras and remote sensing technology is supporting this revolution in airport air traffic management. Instead of a tower full of controllers and equipment, there are cameras that transmit images and data to a separate control centre that could be hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

There, the view of the airfield is stitched back together to create a live 360 degree image that can be augmented with other operational data, from radar labels on individual aircraft, to the location of closed taxiways.

This single ‘head up display’ is designed to improve a controller’s situational awareness, while the camera set up provides everything a ‘full fat’ tower does despite also potentially being several million pounds cheaper.

And when combined with AI tools that integrate and analyse a vast range of operational data, you have the beginnings of the ‘smart airport’ concept, expanding from airside to landside to optimise the flow of passengers not just the flow of flight.

However, navigating this new digital landscape can be a major challenge.

Listen to Alex Sauriol, chief technology officer and co-founder of Searidge Technologies in discussion with Simon Daykin, NATS chief architect and Andrew Taylor, NATS head of customer solutions, as they explore the benefits and potential pitfalls of the next generation of ATM.

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