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Jeudi, 08 Septembre 2011 12:00

Air Traffic Control From Afar

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  • 12:30 pm  | 
  • Wired September 2011

A hi-def wraparound screen simulates the view from a control tower.
Photo: Peter Karlsson/Svarteld

Air traffic control towers may someday go the way of the lighthouse. At least, that’s the goal of a system being developed by Saab with Sweden’s LFV air traffic control service in which landing instructions are barked not from a four- or five-story lookout next to the tarmac but from a tricked-out control center miles away. Starting next year, Sundsvall and Örnsköldsvik regional airports will each host an 82-foot structure topped with a camera array that beams 360-degree views to hi-def wraparound screens in a remote facility. Controllers already communicate from afar while planes are en route, but this will be a first for tower operations. A pair of movable 36X-zoom cameras will provide extra flexibility, while video, weather data, object tracking, and anomaly detection can be integrated right on the hi-def screen. The images are sent from camera to screen in less than a second over an Internet link with several layers of redundancy.

Smaller airports stand to benefit the most: By having centralized services available on demand, they will be able to cut out the huge cost of maintaining their own towers and teams of controllers. The main challenge, say the project’s engineers, is getting controllers and other personnel to feel comfortable with the idea. But not so comfortable that they nod off.


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