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London City Airport to use latest digital air traffic control technology
Picture courtesy of NATS

London City Airport to use latest digital air traffic control technology

In 2020, London City Airport will become the first in the UK to install a digital air traffic control system.

The project was announced in May last year, as part of the airport’s 30th anniversary celebration, marked by £400 million investment, which includes the digital air traffic control system, described by London City Airport as “truly the future of air traffic control.”

London City Airport has updated Business Britain on the progress made; a 50-metre digital tower is being built at the airport, which will comprise of 14 HD cameras and 2 pan-tilt-zoom cameras at the top with a 360 degree view of the airfield and immediate surroundings – all of which is the very latest in camera technology.

Construction of the tower started last year and will be completed at the end of 2018. Whilst this will be located at the airport, the air traffic controllers will be based off site, using streamed footage of the airfield to manage movements on the ground.

Data will be sent via several independent high speed fibre networks. The airport spokesperson said: “Quite simply, instead of looking out of a window, they will be looking at screens.”

What will be the benefits? London City Airport say the additional technology will support the controller in a way the traditional setup “simply cannot offer.”

The spokesperson said: “For a start, the 360 view from the cameras will be streamed in the control room in a seamless 270 degree format – so controllers can literally see what’s behind them.”

A sophisticated and “incredible” set of tools augment the live view of the airfield with additional data; for example, moving objects such as helicopters and drones can be tagged and tracked, and on-screen labels can be added to mark out taxiways.

It means that safety and efficiency will be enhanced because of the increased information in the hands of controllers.

The airport will increase its hourly movements to 45 per hour at peak times. With this in mind, the new digital air traffic control tower and technology surrounding this will provide the airport with a real asset.

Once the tower is constructed, 12 months of testing and training will follow, during which time the existing tower will remain operational, and after this, the digital air traffic control system will enter service in 2020.

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