On Thursday, April 25, 2024, skeyes presented its latest innovation: the 'Digital Tower Test Centre' at their Steenokkerzeel site. This state-of-the-art centre acts as the prototype for the digital control centre currently being set up by skeyes and SOWAER (Société Wallonne des Aéroports) in Namur. This milestone marks a major step forward in the field of Air Traffic Management.

By 2026, air traffic at Charleroi and Liège airports, which are 100 km apart, will be remotely managed from a single digital control centre in Namur. This will ensure the operational safety of Walloon airports for the future. The integration of modern technologies into the system will make aviation even more reliable and safe. 

Digital towers mean the future for air traffic control. Eventually, digital air traffic control centres will take over the role of traditional physical towers at airports. 

Through masts equipped with high-quality cameras, infrared systems and intelligent sensors at the airports involved, air traffic controllers will receive the image projected in real time on large screens at those air traffic control centres. The screens display the horizon of their respective airport over the full 360°. A ground radar system also displays the exact location of aircraft even when they are hidden from the naked eye of controllers due to less favourable weather conditions. Augmented reality allows operators to project additional information at each aircraft which will help them manage traffic.

The skeyes project is currently one of the most advanced projects in the world. For the first time, the management of all ground movements, during landing and take-off at two medium-sized airports will be carried out from a remote location. The integration of a ground radar system into the digital tower concept is also a first.

Meanwhile, the Digital Tower Project is also quietly taking shape in the field. On 9 April 2024, SOWAER and skeyes laid the foundation stone of the new control centre in Namur. In November 2023, the first mast was erected at Liege Airport. It is this mast that will initially supply the images to feed the test centre. 

In Flanders too, skeyes is preparing a digital control centre, which will eventually serve the airports of Antwerp, Ostend and Kortrijk.

Possible locations for a future Remote Digital Tower Centre in Flanders.
Possible locations for a future Remote Digital Tower Centre in Flanders.

The test centre is almost identical to the one currently being built in Namur. It will also be fed with real-time images from the masts in Liège and Charleroi but will not have the communication module with aircraft. This prototype centre will enable us to familiarise our staff with the new technologies, train air traffic controllers and further perfect the ergonomics of the centre in Namur.