Cranfield Airport has become the first UK airport to employ a DATCC for ‘Local’ control. The service was opened by the Aviation Minister on 13 December.
Over the next few months, Cranfield will continue to work with the CAA to complete the transition from a traditional ATC tower to the new digital centre, providing what is planned to be a high-quality ATC service.
Supplied by Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions, the new technology replicates what can be seen through all the windows of a traditional ATC tower, providing controllers with a 360-degree view of the airport and the ability to zoom-in on aircraft, improving visibility.
It claims to enable smarter approaches to air traffic control by digitising and integrating airport functions - improving the controller’s situational awareness and enabling quick and informed decisions.
Aviation Minister, Liz Sugg, commented: ‘Cranfield’s new control centre is a fantastic example of harnessing technology to improve the efficiency of flights. The upcoming Aviation Strategy consultation will set out how the Government proposes to encourage the use of innovative technology to achieve sustainable aviation growth and enhance passengers’ experience.’
Currently, there are no fully operational digital control towers providing ‘Local’ (ie immediate area and ground movement) facilities at UK airports, although there are many that employ remote ‘Approach’ radar services. In 2015, the Swedish airports of Örnsköldsvik and Sundsvall became the first in the world to be controlled via digital air traffic control, based in Sundsvall.
As well as serving Cranfield Airport, which is owned by Cranfield University, the DATCC will be an integral part of the £67 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) at Cranfield, scheduled to open in 2020.