London City launches UK's first digital tower


London City Airport is to become the first United Kingdom airport to install a digital air traffic control tower, with its planes controlled from 80 miles away.

Nats airports director Mike Stoller said: 'Digital towers are going to transform the way air traffic services are provided at airports by providing real safety, operational and efficiency benefits.

The new system has been developed by Swedish defence company Saab and will be installed over the next year and subject to testing before going live in 2019.

It will provide controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield via 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom.

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The current control tower is reaching the end of its operational lifespan, he said, with the new technology already in use at Sweden's smaller Ornskoldsvik and Sundsvall airports.

London City's remote tower will be constructed at an operations room at the UK's main area control centre at Swanwick, some 110km south-west of the London airport. Information which occupies a number of screens in a traditional control tower will instead overlay the live feed, allowing controllers to see all the identifying flight information and radar information.

An architectural drawing of the London City Airport's 50-metre digital tower.

The control tower in Swanwick will house three people per shift, the same number of controllers now working in London.

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Mr Collier said: "No chief executive is complacent about threats from cyber security".

The 50-metre digital tower was approved by the London Borough of Newham in December 2016, and construction will begin later this year, located in the airport's long-stay auto park, in line with the mid-way point of the runway, adjacent to King George V Dock.

The airport, bought last year by a consortium including Canadian pension funds, is due to expand as part of a development programme which will see an extra two million people flying to and from it every year by 2025 and an additional 30,000 annual flights.

'We do see this as being a growing market place across the United Kingdom and the world'.

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The airport, which is undergoing a 350 million pound ($455 million) expansion, is located near the Canary Wharf financial centre in east London and used by over 4.5 million passengers mainly for business travel between Europe's major centres.