London City is to become the first UK airport to replace its air traffic control tower with a remotely operated digital system. Instead of sitting in a tower overlooking the runway, controllers will be 80 miles away, watching live footage from high-definition cameras. The new system, due to be completed in 2018, will be tested for a year before becoming fully operational in 2019. It has already been tested in Australia, Sweden, Norway and Ireland. The technology has been developed by Saab, the Swedish defence and Security Company, and will be introduced as part of a £350m development programme to upgrade London City Airport. It will also include an extended terminal building, enabling it to serve two million more passengers a year by 2025. The remote digital system will provide controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield via 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom. The cameras will send a live feed via fibre cables to a new operations room built at the Hampshire base of Nats, Britain’s air traffic control provider. As well as being able to see it, controllers will be able to hear the airport, as if they were in situ. Unlike the old tower, the new system will allow controllers to zoom in for a better view and put radar data onto the screen to track aircraft. BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott says a critical new safety feature means the cameras will be able to pick out rogue drones near the airport, as well as light the runway at night.
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