Customers include Avinor (the Norwegian ANSP), Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), Dublin Airport, LFV (the Swedish ANSP) and skeyes (the Belgian ANSP, formerly Belgocontrol), and various industry suppliers.
Through innovation and technology development, Remote Towers – or Digital Towers – have emerged as an alternative to Visual Control Towers. By installing cameras and sensors in the airport vicinity, the airport and controllers’ environments are replicated in a Remote Centre. A controller can then, sat remotely from the airport’s location, control aircraft at their designated airport or potentially at multiple remote airports at the same time (known as ‘multi-mode’ operations). This multi-mode operation has the potential to deliver economies of scale; whilst on its own, a new Remote Centre could provide more flexible and resilient staffing options as well as lower maintenance costs for new infrastructure.
Other operational benefits are also available. Situational awareness can be improved through data overlays and zoom functions on the controllers’ screens; capacity can be increased through the use of infrared cameras during Low Visibility Operations; business continuity can be secured through the Remote Centre’s use as a contingency facility.
The potential of Remote Towers may therefore provide an attractive alternative to Visual Control Towers for both small and large airports alike. However, it is not itself without challenges. Each implementation must be assessed on a case-by-case basis to understand whether it will truly benefit the airport in question. After all, it requires significant change to an airport’s and ANSP’s operating environment; it requires significant capital expenditure, social considerations must not be underestimated, and the introduction of new data and communication links introduces both safety and cyber risks that must be addressed.
Role of Egis
Egis has been involved in the Remote Tower concept since its initial inception and has extensive experience across the whole lifecycle of Remote Tower implementation, helping clients work through and better understand these challenges. This includes:
- Establishing the feasibility and economic case: Each airport will have its own drivers for considering Remote Towers and, considering the capital expenditure, there is not always a clear solution. We have prepared feasibility and economic studies for HIAL, skeyes, and Dublin Airport to balance the benefits and drawbacks, for example cost vs operational benefits, and alignment with strategic requirements of different implementation options across a range of locations. We conducted one of the first Cost Benefit Analyses on Remote Towers for LFV. For those who have sought to progress the concept, we’ve proposed tailored solutions. The studies have considered factors covering cost, regulatory environment, safety, human factors, technical requirements and operations, and have often included stakeholder workshops to ensure transparency and gather diverse views.
- Remote Tower market study: Whilst ANSPs and airports will own the implementation programmes, with the right relationship, manufacturers can support the solution development. Understanding how best to provide that support and deliver their services is therefore key for manufacturers. This can range from the provision of specific pieces of infrastructure and equipment, to integration services, to operations and/or maintenance. We have worked with a number of industry suppliers to better understand the Remote Tower market and identify entrance opportunities.
- Procurement support: Procurement of new and innovative technology is a challenge, both in terms of technical specifications and process. We contributed to the operational concept and technical requirements specifications for Avinor – one of the first in the world to implement Remote Towers – whilst supporting HIAL with preparing pre-tender market engagement material to understand industry capabilities. Meanwhile, our procurement support for skeyes has carried through from initial concept development stage and feasibility study, to the preparation of tender documentation for suppliers. Our latest support for skeyes has covered the procurement strategy itself as well as the development of the technical procurement specification and tender assessment.
- Safety and cybersecurity assurance through Remote Tower implementation: Ensuring the safety and cybersecurity of any new concept is of primary importance. Egis has worked alongside HIAL and Avinor through their implementation programmes preparing numerous safety cases and cybersecurity assessments. Our safety scope covers all stages of hazard assessment, from initial hazard identification to safety objective derivation to risk mitigation strategies. Our cybersecurity assurance covers the definition of initial cyber requirements during the procurement phase, cyber workshops with staff, reviews of cyber policy, guidance on security architectures, and vulnerability and threat assessments.
- Proactive Human Factors integration into Remote Tower procurement, adaptation and validation: The realisation of Remote Tower benefits is dependent on the ability of the end users, i.e., tower controllers and tower support staff, to effectively and safely use the system, in normal, abnormal and degraded mode situations. Remote Tower operations represent a radical change; therefore, it is important that the environment remains sustainable from an end user perspective. Egis’ Human Factors (HF) integration activities for skeyes and Avinor ensured that end-user needs and requirements were integrated into procurement, adaptation and validation. Specific HF activities included field studies, HF change assessment and issues identification, definition of Human Machine Interface, anthropometrics and environmental requirements, offer reviews, prototype evaluations, and Human Performance Case development.
Egis’ independent support has delivered wide-ranging benefits to clients, including:
- Through the HF, safety and cyber assessments conducted for Avinor, safety assurance for their Remote Tower Centres was achieved, clearing an essential hurdle for the Remote Tower solution to become operational. HF integration helped Avinor to deploy a Remote Tower concept that is optimised from an end user perspective, thus promoting benefit realisation, safety, and reduced lifecycle costs. Avinor were also able to develop robust tender documentation with appropriately defined technical requirements, which has resulted in one of the first operational Remote Tower Centres in the world.
- Following our study for Dublin Airport to determine the optimal tower solution to support dual runway operations, they were able to make an informed decision to implement a new Visual Control Tower rather than a Remote Tower. The new Visual Control tower is the tallest occupied structure in the whole of Ireland.
- skeyes have progressed from an initial concept to conducting a tender process. They have been able to adapt their strategy as their requirements have become clearer, enabling them to launch the process for selecting the best industry partner for their needs.
- Scotland’s HIAL now has a long-term strategy in relation to Remote Tower developments, based on detailed technical, operational and economic analysis.
- LFV used our early work on the economics case to launch the world’s first Remote Tower. They were subsequently able to benefit from our support in helping them to explore the market potential and secure significant EU funds to expand their roll-out further.