Inverness Airport has been chosen as a remote air traffic control centre for seven Scottish airports as part of a £28m project that will be developed over the next decade.

Regional airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) recently accepted a scoping study on the matter from consultants Ekos, which indicated Inverness as the preferred location to trial the project, which is the first of its kind in the UK.

The move is expected to change the way air traffic services are provided at the HIAL-managed airports, as all activities will be concentrated in one control tower and surveillance centre.

The HIAL board said the decision has been made possible thanks to recent advancements in airport traffic management (ATM), which can now be carried out remotely through the use of cameras. These cameras are able to offer panoramic views of the airfield showing more detail than the human eye can see. Such technology is currently in use in Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and the US.

According to the board, a communities impact assessment will be undertaken as part of HIAL’s ATM 2030 project, which is the largest of its kind in the UK. The project aims to combine the air traffic management of Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Wick John O’Groats, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula into a single location.

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said: “The scoping study identifies Inverness as having the most compelling case to support HIAL’s continued delivery of its core activities.

“Inverness is best suited from a technical, operational and staffing perspective. Inverness is centrally located in relation to the other HIAL airports and has direct flights to Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula.”

Lyon added that the project could compromise 86 positions, although there are no planned reductions in staff. The board is currently recruiting a dedicated project team to oversee the new remote towers and surveillance centre.

HIAL interim chair Lorna Jack said: “The implementation and delivery of the remote tower and surveillance centre is the largest and most complex project HIAL has ever undertaken. We are committed to undertaking a thorough communities impact assessment that will take into account the views of local people, business leaders and local authorities to ensure the best decisions are made.

“Prioritising aviation service delivery to the islands and other locations we serve is all about supporting those communities from both economic and social perspectives.”