Last December, the German air navigation service provider, DFS Deutsche Flugischerung, was the first worldwide to introduce remote tower control (RTC) at an airport that has more than 15,000 flight movements per year. The introductory weeks proved successful and the RTC Centre handled all take-offs and landings safely and without traffic delays. To date, air traffic controllers have handled more than 2,200 flights at Saarbrücken International Airport from the Remote Tower Control Centre 450 km away.
“The RTC system has met our expectations. Now, we are focusing on the integration of Erfurt Airport, which is planned for next year. Dresden Airport, which has around 36,500 aircraft movements per year and thus significantly more than the other two, will follow later," said Klaus-Dieter Scheurle, CEO at DFS.
DFS developed the remote tower system together with the Austrian high-tech company Frequentis.
The DFS subsidiary, DFS Aviation Services, and Frequentis have set up a joint venture, FREQUENTIS DFS AEROSENSE, to deliver turnkey remote sensing solutions combining their technological and operational expertise. Remote virtual tower solutions have generated high interest worldwide.
The remote tower solution can be customised for different scenarios. Based on a scalable and modular ATM platform, it is not only suitable for small and medium-sized airports but also for contingency solutions and large airports. Digitalisation and virtualisation can support safety and productivity of air traffic services at airports.
The company offers the whole range of services and products, including different camera systems as well as operational concepts.
“One point is to find the right solution depending on the envisioned use case. However, it is equally important to manage the implementation including training and transition, safety assessments and regulatory requirements, as well as the change management that comes with a new concept like RTC”, explains Katrin Scheidgen, one of the Managing Directors at FREQUENTIS DFS AEROSENSE.
The German ANSP DFS is working on the expansion of its RTC Centre and, together with Frequentis, is continuously enhancing the system.
A new software release will soon be launched. Additional adaptations are planned for the connection of Erfurt Airport. For instance, the aircraft on the panorama display will then have labels with integrated flight plan data, which can be displayed or hidden.
DFS controllers monitor traffic at Saarbrücken Airport in the air and on the ground from the Remote Tower Control Centre in Leipzig. An advanced camera system with high-definition video and infrared cameras delivers a permanent 360-degree view of the airport. The system can automatically detect movements and highlight objects. Complementary pan-tilt-zoom cameras can automatically track objects and work like automatic binoculars.
The companies are demonstrating their RTC concepts from 12 to 14 March 2019 at the World ATM Congress in Madrid.
Background: Saarbrücken International Airport – Europe-wide destinations
Saarbrücken, passengers can fly to destinations in Germany and Europe several times a week – including Mallorca, Antalya and Gran Canaria. With more than 15,000 flight movements per year, Saarbrücken is the largest airport in the world where daily operations are controlled remotely. In 2018, just under 9,600 were under instrument flight rules (IFR) and around 5,800 under visual flight rules (VFR). The airport handled around 360,000 passengers.