New Zealand is making progress on the delivery of its first remotely operated digital air traffic control tower.
Air navigation services provider Airways has awarded a contract to global technology provider Frequentis to develop a digital system for Invercargill Airport.
Airways is pursuing digital tower technology as a national alternative to conventional towers that will provide greater aviation safety, improved weather resiliency and the option to provide extended levels of services to New Zealand’s regions.
“A digital tower at Invercargill Airport is the first step in our journey to modernise the way we provide air traffic services at airports,” Airways general manager of air traffic services Tim Boyle says. “We’re excited about the safety and efficiency advantages the technology offers to the airport, airlines, and ultimately travellers.”
Airways and Frequentis will work in partnership to deploy the digital system in Invercargill. It is due to go live in 2020 and will be operated at first by controllers based at the airfield, before later moving to a centralised hub providing services to a number of regional locations.
Digital tower technology allows controllers to manage traffic from a remote location by replicating the view they would have from a conventional tower using high definition cameras and surveillance sensors.
An advanced set of tools, including infrared camera equipment, object detection and tracking ability, will provide vastly improved situational awareness, particularly in low light, or during adverse weather conditions. Augmented reality features allow live aircraft information such as altitude and speed to be overlaid on screens.
Digital air traffic control towers are being implemented at airports worldwide, with fully operational towers already in place in Europe. Frequentis is also deploying a solution for the US Department of Defence.
Frequentis Australasia managing director Martin Rampl says: “As the application of remote tower technology becomes more widespread, the safety and capacity benefits that controllers can obtain become clearer.
“We are absolutely delighted to have been selected by Airways New Zealand to implement the Frequentis smartVISION solution in Invercargill and very much look forward to supporting them in their goal to enhance their regional air traffic control services.”
Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty says: “As Southland’s gateway to the world, Invercargill Airport is a growing regional airport and we’re pleased to be leading the introduction of digital air traffic control into New Zealand.
“Digital towers will help to future-proof our airport operations, ensuring we’re able to safely and efficiently meet the ongoing needs of all those who fly here.”