Saab digital air traffic control tower

Cranfield Airport orders Saab digital control tower

Image credit: Saab

Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire is to install a digital air traffic control tower, with aircraft movements monitored on screens instead of through the windows of a conventional tower. The system will be supplied by Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions.

The airport, situated 50 miles from London, is owned by Cranfield University, the UK’s only exclusively postgraduate university and the country’s largest provider of accredited aerospace degree courses. It is the only university in Europe with its own airport and runway.

Swedish defence and security company Saab has been developing digital air traffic control systems since 2006, and its system has been approved by authorities for operational use since 2015.

The firm will install a mast at Cranfield Airport, equipped with cameras and sensors recording everything that takes place. All this data will be sent digitally to a control centre and projected onto a 360-degree view on large screens in front of the air traffic controllers.

Image monitoring is combined with other systems, such as radar display, navigation aids and information about flight plans and weather conditions; all the information that the controllers need to manage the traffic.

The digital air traffic control system complies with same existing rules and regulations as for conventional towers and the data traffic can take several routes to ensure that it arrives even if an interruption occurs.

Saab says improved safety is one of the most important cornerstones, and the camera technology in the new remotely controlled tower makes it possible to cope with difficult light conditions much better than before. The system adjusts the images automatically when there is direct sunlight or there are snow reflections, which makes it possible for the controllers to follow an aircraft that is climbing skywards without becoming dazzled. The technology also allows controllers to zoom in and enhance the image in order to pick out details.

“The digital control tower will be a significant boost for Cranfield Airport and the research capabilities of the University. Combined with our existing and new facilities, the digital control tower will cement Cranfield’s place as the home of the leading aerospace research facilities in Europe,” said Professor Sir Peter Gregson, vice-chancellor and chief executive of Cranfield University.

“Our proven technology and operational experience is an important differentiator in the market,” said Johan Klintberg, CEO of Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions. “We are also looking forward to the collaboration with Cranfield University and the strong links the university has with the industry in the area of innovative research and development.”, says Johan Klintberg, CEO of Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions.

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