Singapore’s CAAS awards NATS smart digital tower prototype contract to test Changi viability

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has awarded  the UK service provider NATS a contract, valued at close to $7 million, to develop a smart digital tower prototype to be trialled at Changi Airport, over a period of 22 months.

CAAS said it will then evaluate the operational feasibility before determining the suitability and robustness of such a smart digital tower for a busy airport like Changi Airport. Development works on smart digital tower operations have so far been focused on airports with low to moderate air traffic volume.

A smart digital tower, equipped with a range of assistive functionalities and features, is envisioned to enhance air traffic management and safety of runway and ground operations, and to increase operational efficiencies at Changi Airport.

The contract includes the set-up of multiple fixed-position cameras to feed live video images onto a large video wall. This will provide a similar view to what air traffic controllers currently see from a physical control tower.

The trial will employ advanced camera and video stitching technologies, thus enabling better display of information. For instance, the video cameras can automatically pan, tilt, and zoom, to enable a closer look at objects and/or areas of interest.

CAAS director-general Kevin Shum said: “In concert with Singapore’s Smart Nation drive, we are leveraging digital technology to transform the aviation industry in Singapore in many different ways. We look forward to working closely with NATS to co-develop the operational procedures and processes required to deploy the smart digital tower for Changi Airport. We are excited by the possibilities and remain committed to working with our industry partners to provide quality air traffic management services without compromising on safety and service levels.”

The tender for the smart digital tower prototype was launched on 28 February and attracted a total of three bids. All bids were evaluated based on a set of criteria, including technical expertise, company track record, and price competitiveness.

The airport, with its 58 million passenger movements a year, will be the largest and most complex in the world to trial the technology with a view to understanding how it could meet its challenging day-to-day operational requirements.

A smart digital tower, equipped with a range of assistive functionalities and features, is expected to enhance air traffic management and the safety of runway and ground operations, and to increase operational efficiencies at the airport. The contract includes the set-up of multiple fixed-position cameras to feed live video images onto a large video wall.

The trial will employ advanced camera and video stitching tools from Searidge Technologies, the Canadian digital tower company, to provide an enhanced view of the airport with live operational data overlaid as a ‘heads up display’. Cameras will be able to track, pan, tilt, and zoom, to enable a closer look at objects or areas of interest, while radar and weather data can also be augmented on screen to provide greater situational awareness.

The project will last for 22 months and allow CAAS to evaluate the operational feasibility of adopting a smart digital tower at Changi Airport in the future.

Martin Rolfe, NATS chief executive, said: “Singapore and CAAS are leading the world in the approach to smart airport and smart digital tower adoption and we’re absolutely delighted to have been chosen to work with them on what will be a transformational project for Changi Airport and the wider aviation industry. I believe the work we do together over the next two years will help shape how smart digital tower and smart airport technologies are applied to hub airports all over the world. It’s a huge vote of confidence not just in NATS’ operational capabilities, but also our partners at Searidge Technologies.”

Moodie Cheikh, Searidge Technologies chief executive and co-founder added: “This project in Singapore, together with our recent remote tower certification at Budapest Airport, signifies a significant milestone in Searidge’s history. It is an endorsement of our strategy and technology vision and we are looking forward to working with CAAS and NATS to deliver on CAAS’ vision of the Changi smart digital tower.”

Alongside NATS and Searidge Technologies, the project will be delivered by Singapore Technologies Electronics Ltd (Large Systems Group) and HungaroControl. It will be the first major project NATS and Searidge will undertake together since the UK ANSP bought a 50 per cent stake in the Canadian company in May this year.

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