Multiple Remote Tower - Is it becoming a reality soon?

By, Joern Jakobi, Business Manager, DLR and Michael Drews, Communications Manager, DLR.

Do you know why planes are the safest means of transportation? One of the main reasons is air traffic services. Because they operate no matter how much traffic there is and always put safety first, these services can be costly to run. Particularly for airports where demand may be high on weekends and holidays, but low at other times of the week. Is there a way to offer the same or even higher level of service provision in a more cost-efficient way?

One way is through the implementation of the SESAR 2020 “Multiple Remote Tower and Remote Tower Centre” solution. At its core is the presentation of the control tower’s out-of-the-window view using the latest technologies, such as a high definition video panorama and a pan tilt zoom camera. Optical sensor systems at the airport produce a video stream, which is relayed and displayed at any required location, preferably at a remote tower center to which several airports are connected.

The remote tower center is operated by a pool of air traffic service officers, who provide their services to airports where and when needed. At a remote tower centre, air traffic service officers can also provide air traffic services to multiple low traffic volume airports at the same time. Thanks to the pooling of resources, controllers can also assist each other in cases where the traffic at one of the airports becomes too complex to handle alone.

Automatic planning tools support the supervisor in a remote tower center for the most efficient allocation of airports and air traffic service officers to each working position. The multiple remote tower concept offers a smart and sustainable solution for air traffic management. With it, an air traffic service officer’s workload can be better balanced, since no officer will be underused or overwhelmed with tasks. This contributes to safety and job satisfaction. And, of course, it increases the cost efficiency of smaller airports that are often connecting the most remote parts of Europe, providing them with an economic lifeline.

Graphic representation of the supervisor position

Graphic representation of the supervisor position

With the Multiple Remote Tower solution, European citizens and businesses can look forward to greater mobility and connectivity! The SESAR2020 project “Digital Technologies for Tower”
investigated such large Remote Tower Centers with “multiple” operations for their operational feasibility. A crucial role in such large Remote Tower Centers plays the supervisor position, who
has the task to monitor and balance workload of the individual controllers. He or she ensures that controllers are neither under nor overloaded with work, something which is key to ensuring
safety at the same time increasing job satisfaction. To cope with the increasing complexity of air traffic and the job of the controller, the project partners prototyped and tested planning
tools as part of the solution “Multiple Remote Tower and Remote Tower Centre”.

“The supervisor planning tool helps me to overview complex information and it assists me to allocate optimally the controllers, the airports and the controllers working positions.” is stated by an Lithuanian controller who supported the validations as a test subject. The “merging” of various data, such as the number of arriving and departing aircraft or the traffic mix, allows a better monitoring of controllers’ taskload. This aggregated data is processed by the planning tool. It provides the supervisor with a comprehensive overview of the current and future situation and supports him/her in finding and implementing solutions. The supervisor keeps track of the taskload of each controller. When the anticipated workload of a controller risks becoming critical, the supervisor receives a notification. The supervisor contacts the controller and asks if the controller needs support.

The planning tool now helps the supervisor to find a suitable controller for support. When the right one has been selected control of an airport is transferred from one controller to the other. A polish controller supplements: “With multiple remote tower I feel comfortable because the strain is neither too high nor too low and the supervisor helps me balance my workload.” With the successful completion of the project, the results of the tests will be transferred into industrial products and then introduced in future remote tower centers.