In reply to FoxATM’s: 'Air traffic control in home-office?'24 April 2020
In the detailed article 'Air traffic control in home-office?', FoxATM has already looked at whether, in extreme cases such as the current Covid-19 situation, air traffic control from the home office would be possible. Here, we offer further insight into the possibilities available to the industry, and present some alternatives to working from home.
The coronavirus crisis is currently imposing never-before-seen challenges on air travel. Thousands of planes have been grounded, and multiple airlines have temporarily suspended operations. Yet despite lockdowns and social distancing, air traffic controllers need to keep the remaining air traffic going. In their line of work they cannot simply switch from the tower to the home office. So are there opportunities for working outside of the control tower during times of crisis?
Air Traffic Control from home offices – not an option according to Fox Air Traffic Management
FoxATM has already looked at the issue of home office in the ATC sector in a comprehensive report. Here, experts highlight the fact that the working environment, processes and technical requirements which ATCOs need to perform their activities without issue require more than just a laptop, printer and working internet connection. Radar surveillance, communication systems and duplicate components would scarcely fit in any home office. And these are just a few of the aspects named in the article on why air traffic controllers won’t be working in home offices any time soon.
Remote Tower instead of home office – concepts for different scenarios
But what opportunities are there for protecting staff in towers around the world? Some airports already rely on remote towers. So far, these remote control rooms have mostly been used at airports with low levels of traffic. In Germany, for example, the concept is used at airports in Saarbrücken, Erfurt and Dresden. Here, the small number of flight movements no longer has to be permanently managed and overseen by employees on site. Instead, the air traffic controllers at DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH are controlling air traffic remotely from Leipzig.
In remote towers, air traffic controllers monitor flight movements over large screens
But remote towers offer plenty of advantages during times of crisis too:
1. Teams can work separately
Since space in ordinary control towers is often very limited, air traffic controllers are very much bunched together. Social distancing is an absolute impossibility here. With the help of an additional remote tower, however, teams can be split between two different control rooms. Thus they maintain sufficient distance from one another. Remote towers also offer air traffic controllers more space in general than the narrow turrets of airport towers.
2. Emergency operation, even when evacuating the actual tower
A remote tower is not just a suitable alternative to the actual tower when there is a risk of infection. If the tower has to be evacuated because of a fire or other emergency, the air traffic controllers can continue their work directly in the remote tower and thus keep air traffic safe.
3. More cost-effective than building a second tower
Setting up a remote tower also offers benefits in terms of costs. Instead of investing in the construction of a new or second tower, a remote tower concept can be integrated into “simple” control rooms. Once a suitable concept has been found, it can also be used at other locations as often as you want, meaning even more flexibility.
4. Space for training and simulations
Remote towers are also ideal for other scenarios beyond emergency situations. If a tower is not being used to actively monitor air traffic, the control room can be used for training or simulation purposes.
G&D – the KVM experts in implementing remote tower concepts
We at G&D have been dealing with the air traffic control sector for many years. We have even proven our expertise in this area with our very own KVM switch, tailor-made for the needs of the ATC industry.
That’s why our customers keep coming back to us to design and implement remote tower concepts. As well as the aforementioned remote tower centre in Leipzig, the Hungarian ATC company HungaroControl, for example, has also relied on KVM from G&D for their remote tower.
Remote tower concept employed at Budapest Airport
KVM offers the ideal conditions for optimal integration of a remote tower. Control rooms can be converted into a remote tower with the help of duplications, flexible access to different workspaces and the outsourcing of processor technology.
Budapest Airport has already been relying on a remote tower concept for several years now. Since their actual tower was getting a bit long in the tooth, and there were no capacities for further modernisation, this sort of concept proved ideal.
Instead of having a direct view of air traffic from the tower, dozens of highly-modern cameras now beam images to four video-wall servers round the clock. The content is then displayed on a giant video wall with 32 screens using the ControlCenter-Digital 160 KVM matrix switch. This provides ATCOs with comprehensive visual information and gives them a complete overview of the entire airport. A mirrored, duplicate video wall server system, available at the touch of a button thanks to the KVM matrix, ensures that the air traffic controllers can continue to monitor the airport even in the event of a disruption.
However, in the remote tower in Budapest it’s not just the video wall servers that were designed redundantly. A second, completely mirrored ControlCenter-Digital-160 matrix switch was also integrated. Should one matrix fail – in the event of a disruption – the second matrix is automatically engaged.
Even without direct visual contact, KVM ensures absolute safety – including, and in particular, in crisis situations.
Have remote towers piqued your interest? Then please do get in touch with our sales team at [email protected].
More information on protecting air traffic controllers and on safeguarding air traffic operations despite the current crisis can also be found in a corresponding CANSO info brochure.