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Colorado airport selected to test remote control towerColorado airport selected to test remote control tower

Testing of technology that would allow air traffic controllers to direct airport traffic from a remote location may begin in 2018 at a northern Colorado airport.

Searidge Technologies of Ottawa, Canada, announced that it has struck an agreement with the FAA to test its system at the Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Fort Collins/Loveland, in an $8.8 million project funded by the Colorado Division of Aeronautics.

The tests are intended to bring about the system’s “initial operational capability” in fall or winter of 2019.

The airport northwest of Denver’s Class B airspace was chosen as a test site for its “availability of commercial air service, traffic volume, and the wide mix of aircraft types” that operate there, Searidge Technologies said in a news release.

The facility will follow Virginia’s Leesburg Municipal Airport in testing a remote control tower—a technology AOPA supports for its potential to “enable air traffic control to be more affordable and accessible for airports and communities,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic.

AOPA believes the technology could make it possible for more airports to participate in the cost-efficient FAA Contract Tower Program, he said.

“AOPA was also one of several aviation stakeholders that signed a letter in March supporting the continued funding of the FAA Contract Tower Program because of its importance to general aviation. Our hope is that remote tower technology will allow more airports to participate in the program should they desire Class D air traffic control tower services, and following an expansion of the program, other approved service levels,” he said.

In Leesburg, a  tower using a Saab Sensis Corp. system of cameras mounted atop the airport terminal began interacting with pilots of arriving and departing aircraft this spring and summer in a first FAA test of the technology, after preliminary testing and a safety assessment were evaluated.

AOPA has served on the safety evaluation panels, and participates in the process of considering additional remote tower service levels—for example, whether the systems could provide services such as flight service airport advisories, he said.

In Colorado, the remote tower system “will help establish Colorado as a leader in the next generation of air traffic control technology,” said David Ulane, director of the Colorado Division of Aeronautics.

In a previous collaboration, the aeronautics division pioneered development of the Colorado Mountain Radar Project, which in two phases deployed Wide Area Multilateration and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast surveillance technologies to enhance aircraft visibility in mountainous areas that lacked radar coverage, increasing safety and efficiency at eight airports.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy, ATC

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