ATM Modernization

Are Virtual Air Traffic Towers Safe?

By S.L. Fuller | August 25, 2017

East Asia viewed from space with connections representing main air traffic routes. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Elements of this image furnished by NASA

NATS is planning to replace air traffic controllers at London City Airport with high-definition cameras. Instead of an in-person view, controllers would be monitoring screens remotely, from NATS’ facility in Swanwick, Hampshire.

The goal is that in 2019, the technology — from Sweden’s Saab — will be fully operational. But in the time leading up to that date, NATS has been met with some skepticism. NATS’ head of transformation, Steve Anderson, has answered some questions regarding possible failure points in the virtual system.

“The first thing to say is that we’re not asking the controllers to do anything fundamentally different. Yes they’ll be in a different location with newer kit in front of them, but the process of looking at aircraft and directing them safely on or off the runway won’t change,” Anderson wrote. “What we are doing is giving the controllers a range of new tools to help them to do that job in a way that’s even safer than today.”

Click here to view the NATS blog.

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