London City celebrates being first major airport controlled by a remote tower

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Situated in the heart of the UK capital, London City Airport (LCY) has become the world’s first major international airport to be fully controlled by a remote digital air traffic control tower.  The multi-million pound investment in the revolutionary technology marks a major milestone in the airport’s investment in its future.

Pioneered by Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions, the technology has already been successfully tried and tested at Örnsköldsvik and Sundsvall airports in Sweden. City Airport’s digital control tower was actually completed in 2019 but has since been through an extensive testing period before becoming fully operational. As a result, all flights on the airport’s summer schedule will now be guided to land or take off by air traffic controllers now based 115km away at NATS’ air traffic control (ATC) centre in Swanwick, Hampshire. Controllers will use an ‘enhanced reality’ view supplied by a sate-of-the-art 50m digital control tower located at LCY.

The unveiling of the revolutionary technology follows the completion of new aircraft stands and a full-length parallel taxiway which became operational in December 2020.

“We are immensely proud to become the first major international airport to adopt this pioneering technology,” said Alison FitzGerald, LCY’s Chief Operating Officer. The investment in smart infrastructure will help the airport meet future growth in passenger demand and improve air traffic management, as well as provide enhanced capability as aviation bounced back following the pandemic. “It is also a demonstration of the commitment to innovation in the UK aviation sector and to being at the forefront of defining the future of flight,” she added.

Meanwhile, Juliet Kennedy, Operations Director at NATs, commented: “Digital tower technology tears up a blueprint that’s remained largely unchanged for 100 years, allowing us to safely manage aircraft from almost anywhere, while providing our controllers with valuable new tools that would be impossible in a traditional control tower.”

Sixteen high-definition cameras and sensors mounted on the mast capture a 360-degree view of LCY’s airfield. This is relayed through super-fast fibre connections to a new control room in NATS’ air traffic control centre in Swanwick. A dedicated team of controllers use the live footage, an audio feed from the airfield and radar information to instruct aircraft movements in and out of the airport. The live feed is displayed on 14 HD screens in the Swanwick control room providing a panoramic image. This can be overlaid with digital data to provide an ‘enhanced reality’ view.

Information such as call signs, altitude and speed of all aircraft approaching and leaving the airport, weather readings and the ability to track moving objects can all be included in this single visual display. In addition, pan-tilt-zoom cameras can magnify images up to 30 times for close inspection.

“This is an important milestone for Saab in the implementation of remote air traffic solutions at major civil aerospace hubs with dense traffic in a complex airspace. We look forward to seeing the technology take off at London City Airport, giving controllers new tools and safety features which demonstrate the benefits Digital Towers can bring,” said Magnus Lewis-Olsson, Chairman and President of Saab UK.

Research has revealed huge pent-up demand for international travel this summer. British Airways is introducing a new route to San Sebastian, Spain, alongside popular holiday destinations including Ibiza, Mykonos and Santorini to help meet the expected surge in short-haul travel.

Adolf Wurth Airport uses cloud-based ATC solution to monitor air traffic

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Adolf Würth  Airport in Germany has been using a cloud-based air situation display system called PHOENIX WebInnovation since July 2020 to faciliate safe air traffic management (ATM).

The innovative tool runs on an on-premise cloud in the airport control tower and was developed by DFS Aviation Services in Langen, a subsidiary of DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung. Suitable for a wide range of applications, PHOENIX WebInnovation offers users an innovative way to monitor the air and ground situation of air traffic in real time and with the usual high level of quality demanded by ATM.  It is also a very flexible solution that is hardware and location independent thanks to the use of an online cloud and access via the internet but also with the option for local installation. At Schwäbisch Hall the system was integrated into the existing system infrastructure of the airport control tower.

With cloud solutions still fairly unusual in the ATM sector, the installation of PHOENIX WebInnovation in the control tower at Adolf Würth Airport has enabled the aerodrome to efficiently carry out its Aerodrome Flight Information Services (AFIS).

“The substantial mix of IFR and VFR traffic, as well as business aviation and air sports, presents a major challenge in Schwäbisch Hall [where the aerodrome is based]” said Peter Wohlleben, Managing Director of Flugplatz Schwäbisch Hall. “PHOENIX WebInnovation enables our AFIS officers to always have a complete picture of the overall traffic situation.”

Meanwhile, Andreas Pötzsch, Managing Director  of DFS Aviation Services added: “Air traffic control along with its infrastructure is a highly safely-critical industry. We ourselves are an air navigation services provider and we also develop and sell international air traffic control systems. Therefore, we have the same high requirements for our systems and infrastructure as the rest of the aviation industry. We are convinced that cloud technology today has advanced so far that it is able to reliably fulfil these high safety and performance criteria. Now, during the current difficult economic situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is time to take advantage of this great potential and adopt new approaches. Cloud solutions enable greater flexibility, simplify processes and reduce costs.”

Fiji Airports marks milestone with Adacel’s Aurora ATM system

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Fiji Airports, has collaborated with Adacel – a provider of advanced air traffic management (ATM) and air traffic control (ATC) simulation and training systems – have commissioned the new Aurora ATM for surveillance control in Fiji’s domestic airspace.

The airport group, which owns and manages Nadi International Airport, as well as managing the Nausori International Airport and 13 other outer island airports, has been working with Adacel for more than a decade.

In addition to modernising Fiji Airports’ ATM system and providing air traffic controllers with the latest ATM technology, the new Aurora also delivers a complete technical refresh of the system for controllers at the Nadi ATM Centre and Nadi and Nausori towers. Controllers now have advanced tools and capabilities for all traffic domains including new Human-Machine Interface for quick flight plan creation, clearance delivery and coordination as well as optimised electronic flight strips in the towers.

“Deploying a new system with major new capabilities is a challenge on its own; successfully implementing it during a global pandemic is absolutely remarkable,” said Daniel Verret, Adacel’s CEO, referencing the new Aurora ATM system, which integrates oceanic, approach, and tower control capabilities and includes a new simulator to train air traffic controllers in and ADS-B surveillance environment.

The new Aurora integrates industry-leading procedural airspace management with the functionalities and tools needed to manage traffic in a surveillance environment.

“It is a significant milestone for Fiji Airports to make this historic ATM transition during the COVID-19 pandemic. While there was great pressure and valid need to cut costs across most entities in the aviation industry, Fiji Airports persevered with our previous commitment to continue personnel training and upskilling of our people through the implementation of the new Aurora ATM system,” said Fiji Airports Chairman, Geoffrey Shaw.

Unique 4D-profile conflict detection capabilities combined with progressive surveillance-data safety nets ensure system safety. Tower controller working positions are fully integrated into the system and provide optimised electronic flight strips for multiple users.

“This modernises our ATM system and provides air traffic controllers with the latest ATM technology including electronic flight strips, advanced flight and surveillance data processing and training capabilities. It is one of the world’s best ATM systems for managing procedural control in Oceanic Airspace integrated with the capabilities and tools needed to manage traffic in the domestic environment. This approach allows for optimal fuel-efficient routing in the procedural environment with reduced separation minima for airspace efficiency and gives controllers the tools they need to provide ADS-B based surveillance in en route and approach phases of flight,” continued Shaw.

Estonian Air Navigation Services collaborates with Frequentis on Estonian U-space

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Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS) is collaborating with Frequentis to accelerate the rollout of Estonian U-space (unmanned airspace) and allow drones to coexist in shared airspace with civil aviation, by integrating air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned traffic management (UTM) on the same platform.

Hosted in the Frequentis cloud environment, the project delivers a pre-operational system, to allow use cases and business cases to be defined, verified and trialed. In addition the experience Frequentis gained from previous projects, including the SESAR Gulf of Finland (GOF) U-space trials in 2019, has allowed the system to be adapted to the needs of EANS.

“The use of drone-based services is increasing constantly and drone traffic volume in urban air space is one of the biggest challenges we face,” said Jaanus Jakimenko, Head of CNS Department and Member of the EANS Management Board. “To cope with future demand and to continue providing safe airspace operations, we must ensure that all airspace users are aware of each other. It is crucial to have an efficient unmanned traffic management (UTM) system in place that also interacts with manned aircraft operations,” he continued.

He added that the 2019GOF project, which focused on ATM/ UTM integration testing the U-space concept of operations in seven advanced drone trials, provided EANS with the knowledge to quickly support the use of drones for emergency services during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. “It has also given us the needed assurance of Frequentis technological capabilities and knowledge of their experienced team. We are looking forward to enhancing our airspace operations in line with the growth of drone usage.”

The cloud-based system is provided as a managed service in the Frequentis cloud environment, allowing validation of use cases and business cases as well as UTM/ UAS trials. Furthermore, the cloud architecture enables a fully optimised deployment process, without the need for on-site activities. The current solution will enable EANS to move forward with realising Estonian U-space concept of operations and start implementing technological solutions to provide drones with safe and secure access to the airspace.

“The Frequentis platform allows drone operators to see airspace restrictions and flight rules, file flight plans, and receive updates from air traffic controllers in real time, supporting ANSPs with their goals for increased drone services to support their future tech economy,” said Guenter Graf, VP Frequentis New Business Development.

Fraport Slovenia partners with Frequentis to enhance aeronautical data quality

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Frequentis has been selected by Fraport Slovenia to support Ljubljana Airport with enhancing aeronautical data quality (ADQ) in line with its airport expansion, which is due to be complete in summer 2021.

Frequentis’ smart ADQ solution is provided as a service under the company’s business model software as a service (SaaS), meaning it is responsible for every aspect of the service provision, its infrastructure and operation.

An important gateway to Slovenia and the surrounding region, Ljubljana Airport connects the Balkan region with Western and Central Europe. It is currently undergoing a terminal expansion project, which will the terminal building increase by 15,000 sq. m and feature a new departure hall, 14 additional check-in counters and five new security lines.

“Despite current reduced passenger numbers, we need to be prepared for the increased passenger demand expected during the recovery,” said a spokesperson for Fraport Slovenia. “With Frequentis smartADQ we will cost efficiently implement the software to fulfill the complex EU regulation, ensuring the accuracy and reliability of aeronautical data we share with SloveniaControl. This allows us to improve our processes and enhance safety, in turn supporting our goals for efficiency and growth.”

Charly Fesl, Director Airports, Frequentis added, “This is one more important airport relying on our managed software as a service offering. The software is hosted in the Microsoft Azure Cloud; the Frequentis smartADQ provides all ADQ functionality according to EU regulations, including Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/373 and Regulation (EU) No 139/2014 in a cost-efficient package, ensuring data quality through clear and streamlines rules and validation mechanisms. We are looking forward to bringing enhanced data quality to Fraport Slovenia, supporting their goals for more efficient airport operations.”

Aerospace leaders collaborate on vision for future skies

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Following the first ever meeting of the Complete Air Traffic (CATS) System Global Council last week, industry leaders from across the aviation and aerospace industries are creating a blueprint for safely integrating all airspace users into future skies.

Initiated by the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) last December, the Global Council is an independent forum, which unites airports, airlines, air navigation service providers (ANSPs), UTM service providers, aircraft manufacturers, drone operators and manufacturers, space agencies, high-tech companies and regulatory authorities with the goal of building a vision for the skies together.

“Until now, each of us has been working on our agenda,” said Simon Hocquard, Director General, CANSO. “ANSPs have been focused on an air traffic management vision of the future, drone operators have been concerned with unmanned traffic management, and space explorers have their vision for space flight.” What was missing, he said, was “an aligned vision for total traffic management.”

CATS Global Council aims to change this by transforming how all airborne vehicles are accommodated safely, efficiently and sustainably.

“How do we march into the future? How do we capitalise on the big and exciting opportunities in front of us?” asked Richard Parker, CEO, Altitude Angel.

Margaret Nagle, Head of Policy and Government Affairs responded saying: “What we’re doing hasn’t been done before, so we don’t have all the answers and that”s OK. This Council is a great opportunity for us to learn from one another and focus on the problems we need to solve today while creating a future framework that will enable innovation,”

Meanwhile, Jean Ferre, General Manager and Vice-President Airspace Mobility Solutions at Thales commented, “With this Council we have a unique opportunity to come together as a key driving force of the aviation ecosystem, take ownership and propose an agenda of radical change.”

Avinor Air Navigation Services chooses Thales to enhance Norwegian airspace

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Avinor Air Navigation Services has appointed Thales to supply their new Safety Nets Server to support Norwegian air traffic controllers and contribute to maintaining the highest levels of safety in Norwegian airspace.

The technology will be deployed at Oslo, Stavanger and Bodo Air Traffic Control (ATC) centres and will be fully integrated into a fully virtualised environment. It will guarantee earlier conflict detection and a lower nuisance alert rate than other safety nets solutions. Thales system will help Avinor Air Navigation Services’s controllers keeping the Norway skies safe as well as to support Avinor Air Navigation Services in the work on climate and environmental challenges within aviation for reducing greenhouse gas emission. As part of the agreement Thales will provide long-term maintenance and support services for at least five years.

“Thales is proud to partner with Avinor Air Navigation Services and aspires to their vision for the future of air traffic management in Europe,” said Jean Ferré, VP Airspace Mobility Solutions Activities, Thales. He added that, “this contract adds to Thales’ already existing credentials as leader in the provision of air traffic management systems in Europe and shows Thales’ edge in delivering components perfectly integrated into the actual and the future ATC system and virtualised ATM solutions.”

With its unique multi-hypothesis algorithm, Thales’ solution is an enabler for airspace efficiency improvements and increased demand for air travel in the coming decades. Developed under stringent safety and security requirements, TopSky – Safety Nets fully conforms to EUROCONTROL safety nets specifications. Avinor Air Navigation Services joins more than 40 ANSPs across the globe that have already chosen TopSky – Safety Nets for their ATC centres.

Frequentis acquires parts of ATM product segment from L3Harris Technologies

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The communication and information solutions provider for safety-critical applications, Frequentis, has agreed to acquire the air traffic management (ATM) voice communications and arrival management product business from US company L3Harris Technologies.

The acquisition, costing $20.1 million, comprises the acquisition of: the ATM voice communication systems produce line of L3Harris; the Harris air traffic control (ATC) Solutions business unit of Harris Canada Systems; as well as 100% of the shares in Harris C4i Pty and Harris Orthogon GmbH.

Australian-based C4i will complement the Frequentis ATM defence portfolio by its high secure interoperable communications solutions for mission-critical environments. Meanwhile Frequentis will continue to market German-based Orthogon’s leading products for traffic synchronisation for ATC en-route, approach and airport ATC centres, including them in their offering for digital towers and centres. And by acquiring the Harris ATC Solutions business unit of Harris Canada Systems, Frequentis will expand its technical solutions and add an even wider range of solutions to its already extensive portfolio.

The two companies have also entered into cooperation agreements, under which Frequentis as an L3Harris’ technology partner will provide voice communication products for use in L3Harris’ large-scale solutions and services business.

“Even in the currently challenging times we are committed to advance and to continuously innovate,” said Norbert Haslacher, CEO of Frequentis, commenting on how the acquisition will enable his company to grow its global customer base.

“Traffic optimisation is crucial, even and above all, in times of low traffic. It is our commitment to an efficient and environmentally sustainable air traffic management environment, driven by digitalisation and automation.” He added, “This acquisition, as well as the strong cooperation agreed with L3Harris is perfectly in line with our corporate strategy and achieves a key step in the evolution of Frequentis as a global supplier of mission critical solutions.”

Airports Authority of India enhances airspace with Aireon System

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Aireon’s space-based ADS-B air traffic surveillance system is now in use across Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata’s oceanic airspace. Having signed a contract with Aireon 18 months ago, Airports Authority of India (AAI) is making significant strides towards enhancing safety and efficiency across their ever-growing, highly trafficked area.

With a vast airspace of more than 9 million square kilometres, the deployment of space-based ADS-B provides an additional layer of surveillance, backing up AAI’s existing ground-based network. Improved communications and data sharing between Asia, the Middle East and Europe is also a main objective aimed at reducing delays and improving the flying experience for all users.

“The collaboration and determination to complete the implementation testing remotely by both the AAI and Aireon teams have set the region up for a successful 2021,” said Vineet Gulati, Board Member, Air Navigation Services, AAI. “Despite the challenges that came because of the ongoing global pandemic, AAI was able to continue testing to prepare our airspace to go live with Aireon’s safety-of-life service. When travel picks up again, AAI will be ready to support the rapid increase of aircraft in a cohesive and efficient manner.”

Prior to the roll out of the Aireon system, aircaft had to fly at uneconomical levels due to the high-traffic and many conflict points at crossing paths, burning extra fuel and resulting in additional expenses for airlines. Now, with more accurate position reporting available throughout the entire region, aircraft are more likely to get preferred flight levels and route changes, alleviating the prior issues.

Don Thoma, Aireon’s CEO, commented that “Deploying real-time air traffic surveillance is an initiative that has driven AAI to be a leader not only in the region, but throughout the world.” He added that AAI’s determination to “prepare for future air travel and improve safety to match their robust traffic growth is the innovative thinking that is propelling the aviation industry forward.”

Micro Nav partners with Maldives Airports Company

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Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) has awarded a contract to Micro Nav to supply a 240° five-channel monitor based 3D tower and radar simulator to the MACL Aviation Institute.

The contract was secured following a public tender. According to Micro Nav, which specialises in Air Traffic Control simulators, it provided the most commercially and technically compliant bid. Delivery of it’s tower and radar simulator will be completed in a 10-week turnaround which includes a two-week training course to support MACL in using the simulator. Training is expected to commence in early spring.

MACL will predominantly use the simulator to deliver ATC training to a high standard and in compliance with ICAO requirements, as well as for validation of new operational procedures.

MACL has committed to a long-term support package, benefitting from Micro Nav’s support offering, with software upgrades, priority support and access to the company’s simulation experts.