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Smart digital tower for air traffic control to be trialled at Singapore's Changi Airport

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has awarded a contract valued at close to S$7 million, to develop a smart digital tower prototype for air traffic control to be trialled at Changi Airport, over a period of 22 months.

A smart digital tower, equipped with a range of assistive functionalities and features, could potentially enhance air traffic management and the safety of runway and ground operations, along with increasing operational efficiencies at Changi Airport.

The tender for the smart digital tower prototype was launched on 28 February 2017 and attracted a total of three bids. All bids were evaluated based on a set of criteria, including technical expertise, company track record, and price competitiveness.

UK-based Air Traffic Management service provider NATS has received the contract. NATS is the UK's leading provider of Air Traffic Management services. It provides air traffic control services from centres at Swanwick, Hampshire and Prestwick, Aryshire, as well as air traffic control services at fourteen (14) of the nation's major airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. 

The awarded contract includes the set-up of multiple fixed-position cameras to feed live video images onto a large video wall. This will provide a similar view to what air traffic controllers (ATCOs) currently see from a physical control tower. The trial will employ advanced camera and video stitching technologies, thus enabling better display of information. For instance, the video cameras can automatically pan, tilt, and zoom, to enable a closer look at objects and/or areas of interest.

Following the trial, CAAS will evaluate the operational feasibility before determining the suitability and robustness of such a smart digital tower for a busy airport like Changi Airport. The press release explains that development works on smart digital tower operations have so far been focused on airports with low to moderate air traffic volume.

Director-General of CAAS, Mr Kevin Shum, said, “In concert with Singapore’s Smart Nation drive, we are leveraging digital technology to transform the aviation industry in Singapore in many different ways. We look forward to working closely with NATS to co-develop the operational procedures and processes required to deploy the smart digital tower for Changi Airport. We are excited by the possibilities and remain committed to working with our industry partners to provide quality air traffic management services without compromising on safety and service levels.”

Featured image:  Mailer diablo / CC BY-SA 3.0

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