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Remote tower technology is a key technology for the future of aviation, and for boosting European mobility and connectivity. These were some of the conclusions from an open day on remote tower technology, which took place on 11 November at Milano Malpensa Airport.
Jointly organised by the SESAR Joint Undertaking and SESAR member, Enav, the open day gathered 80 representatives from air navigation service providers, airspace users, manufacturers as well as the regulatory authorities and European institutions. Specifically, the event presented the results of the SESAR large-scale demonstration project Remote Airport Concept Of OperatioN (RACOON). Coordinated by Enav, the project has successfully tested remote tower technology in real operations involving more than 100 real flights at Linate and Malpensa airports.
Remote towers offer alternatives for places where conventional tower facilities and services are currently unavailable or too expensive to run. High-definition cameras and panoramic screens allow traffic controllers in remote workstations to remotely provide air traffic and aeronautical flight information services in real time by providing them a 360-degree view of a given airport. Sensors and controller tools enable them to ensure flights take off and land safely.
The event opened with a keynote address from Roberta Neri, CEO of Enav, who said that this radical and new technology was creating exciting opportunities for air traffic management and aviation.
Her remarks were supported by Marian-Jean Marinescu, Member of the European Parliament, who noted that SESAR technologies, such as remote towers, are the drivers that will eventually deliver the Single European Sky.
In his keynote, Florian Guillermet, SESAR Joint Undertaking, remarked that at the end of the day remote tower technologies would support better connectivity and the sustainability of regional airports and economies.
Of course safety is critical in air traffic management and national and European authorities are collaborating closely to ensure the safe development and implementation of remote tower services, as was noted by both Patrick Ky, European Aviation and Safety Agency, and Alessandro Cardi, ENAC, in their presentations.
Currently, the deployment of remote tower services is local, but according to Massimo Garbini, SESAR Deployment, synchronised deployment of the technology should also be considered in order to fast track its take-up.
During the event, visitors were given an opportunity to visit the Malpensa remote testbed platform. This was a unique opportunity to witness the execution of flight trials, during which Milano Linate and Malpensa traffic were managed by controllers from the remote tower centre located in Malpensa tower. An afternoon session presented in more detail the technical set-up in Milan, as well as the feedback from the airspace users and the air traffic controllers who were involved in the demo.