Cranfield Airport opens UK’s first digital air traffic control centre

14 December 2018 (Last Updated December 14th, 2018 12:13)

The UK's Cranfield Airport has officially launched its digital air traffic control centre, which has been designed to integrate operations to help enhance a controller’s situational awareness and make informed decisions more quickly. 

Cranfield Airport opens UK’s first digital air traffic control centre
Cranfield Airport deploys first digital air traffic control centre in UK. Credit: Cranfield University.

The UK’s Cranfield Airport has officially launched its digital air traffic control centre, which has been designed to integrate operations to help enhance a controller’s situational awareness and make informed decisions more quickly.

The airport has become the first in the UK to feature an operational digital air traffic control centre.

In order to complete the transition from a traditional air traffic control tower to the new digital centre, the airport will continue its work with regulator the Civil Aviation Authority over the next few months.

Supplied by Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions, the technology at Cranfield Airport digitally imitates what can be seen through the windows of a traditional air traffic control tower.

Equipped with HD cameras and sensors, the new technology provides a live 360° view of the airport, as well as the ability to zoom-in on individual aeroplanes to improve visibility.

“The digital air traffic control centre is a significant boost for Cranfield’s global research airport and the research capabilities of the university.”

Cranfield University vice-chancellor and chief executive professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “The digital air traffic control centre is a significant boost for Cranfield’s global research airport and the research capabilities of the university.

“Combined with our existing and future facilities, it will cement Cranfield’s place as the home of leading aerospace and aviation research, at the heart of the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth arc.”

Currently, there are no digital control towers fully operational at UK airports. The airports in Örnsköldsvik and Sundsvall in Sweden became the first in the world in 2015 to be controlled via digital air traffic control in Sundsvall.

Saab Digital Air Services CEO Johan Klintberg said: “Saab and Cranfield University started on this journey in October 2017, and have enjoyed an excellent working relationship that has resulted in today’s success.”

Along with serving Cranfield Airport, the digital air traffic control centre is an integral part of the £67m Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC).

DARTeC is expected to become operational by 2020. It is intended to address numerous research challenges facing the air industry such as integration of drones in civil aviation airspace.