SESAR members, Frequentis together with HungaroControl, DLR, and Leonardo have conducted their first successful validation campaign of the multiple remote tower concept. 

This project (PJ.05) as part of the SESAR 2020 programme aims to bring the concept of remotely controlling multiple airports to the next maturity level and while single remote tower settings have already been deployed, the most significant impact in terms of operational cost-effectiveness will be generated from multiple and/or remote centre applications..

In November at the DLR air traffic validation centre in Braunschweig, Germany, a single remote tower controller managed three airports simultaneously. In a human-in-the-loop real-time simulation seven Hungarian civil and military controllers also managed up to 30 movements per hour at three Hungarian airports: Budapest, Papa and Debrecen.

An integrated multi tower position, combining relevant information for three airports was provided to controllers. A new multi airport planning tool, closely integrated with the Frequentis electronic flight strip solution, called smartSTRIPS, was used to plan and organise the work over multiple airports.

The out of the window view of the three airports was displayed on several large screens and augmented with radar and support information (“stitched view”). Wind shear information provided by Selex was integrated to represent an operational constraint and for testing situational awareness. Integration of voice communication system in the video presentation and on the electronic flight strips system enabled controllers to handle workload, plan traffic and unambiguously associate an airport in a multi remote environment.

DLR researchers and Frequentis human factor experts assessed from a controller’s point of view, perceived situational awareness, and acceptance as well as efficiency and safety in handling various traffic situations to judge overall operational feasibility of the concept and the design of the controller working position.

Controller Emese Kisfaludy said: ‘It was a great challenge to put our minds and skills to the test as tower controllers. The developed technology, the HMI was very helpful and futuristic at the same time. There’s a lot to develop and research further to answer the uprising questions and make the multi-remote concept really safe, useful and efficient in the near future.’

Colleague Gábor Draschitz added: ‘I was looking forward to starting off with this extraordinary, as a controller rather unusual, but exciting challenge of controlling traffic at three airports at the same time and the testing of the new technology. I have really enjoyed controlling in the simulator, but it is clear that intensive technical development will be needed until this project determining the future of the aviation industry becomes successful, and a lot of effort awaits those working on the procedures and the legal environment.’

The partners said the November tests prove that a single air traffic controller can safely provide air traffic control services remotely to more than one airport.

And while the validation results showed the operational feasibility of the concept, integration and a harmonised HMI have been identified to be the key elements of a multi-airport solution.

In 2018, the second phase of this simulation campaign will be conducted at DLR premises, building upon lessons learned in 2017. Following this, it is planned to apply this concept on a real-life validation platform based on Frequentis’ smartVISION Solution together with HungaroControl and Leonadrdo at HungaroControl’s premises in Budapest