June 10, 2012

Saab's Remote Air Traffic Control Tower With Panoramic Views To Be Trialed In Norway

Dante D'Orazio, writing for The Verge:

"From the layman's perspective, few of the many cogs that keep planes in the sky and airports running safely could use a 21st-century upgrade more than the age-old air traffic control tower. Saab unveiled its vision of the future last year with its remote tower (or r-TWR) — a system that provides a 360-degree live video feed of an airport to offsite monitoring stations"

This is a great idea for aggregating smaller, lower-volume airports. Control operations for multiple airports can be handled from a single facility by running them from separate "tower cab" rooms for each.

It's not a good idea for high-volume airports where a technology failure can render an airport sightless.

When technology fails at FAA radar facilities in the US today, they go to what's called an ATC-zero operation. That means exactly what you'd think: no ops.

Imagine Hartsfield-Jackson (Atlanta)'s five runways being rendered useless on a sunny day due to a remote video outage. On-site controllers can at least look out the window.