Everything in Sight, Even From Afar
A network of several cameras provides the controllers with a 360-degree panoramic image, and they can freely choose the section of the image to focus on. The cameras in Saarbrücken can be swiveled and tilted to a large extent and zoomed to display even distant details.
Infrared technology provides air traffic controllers with a significantly improved view of the apron and the runways, especially in darkness. A new IT system, the Remote Tower Control System, also provides them with valuable support. It automatically detects all flight and taxiing movements and highlights the aircraft on the ground and in the air on the monitors. Aircraft taking off and landing can be tracked manually or automatically by the cameras; all optical functions are designed redundantly for safety reasons.
Air traffic controllers outside the tower having no direct line of sight to the aircraft has been common practice for decades. This is how DFS monitors flight movements throughout German airspace at the four major control centers in Langen, Bremen, Munich and Karlsruhe. “It’s a logical next step to control take-offs and landings remotely,” says Professor Scheurle.
„With our system, we are now able to control an international airport around the clock from a remote location for the first time.“
PProfessor Klaus-Dieter Scheurle,
CEO of DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, Langen
The development partner for the remote tower system was the Austrian technology company Frequentis, while the video and infrared sensors were provided by the German Rheinmetall Defence Electronics group.
The system has been developed over the last four years, and the national and international marketing campaign is now being launched. DFS subsidiary DFS Aviation Services GmbH and Frequentis have founded their own company, Frequentis DFS Aerosense GmbH, for this purpose.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is also intensively involved in remote monitoring, especially of smaller airports, and is conducting research into an innovative Multiple Remote Tower concept. In future, this too should allow air traffic controllers to manage not just one, but several airports at the same time from a distance. There are 37 international partners involved in the project within the framework of the EU “Horizon 2020” research and innovation program.
„In more complex traffic situations, one, two or more controllers may manage one airport, while in less intensive conditions, a single controller may be responsible for one, two or more airports.“
DLR project coordinator of the European research project
“PJ05 Remote Tower for Multiple Airports”
However, in order to fully exploit the advantages of the remote tower concept, the centers would have to be connected to more than one airport, says Jakobi. “This enables a much more efficient allocation of airports to air traffic controllers. The controllers work flexibly at the airports where there is more traffic. In more complex traffic situations, one, two or more controllers may manage one airport, while in less intensive conditions, a single controller may be responsible for one, two or more airports.”
Text by Behrend Oldenburg