Normally when you fly on an aircraft, you see the tower sitting right there in the middle of the airport with all the traffic controllers doing whatever it is they do to keep the aircraft and passengers safe. Some smaller airports have been using something called a digital tower for a long time now. This removes the traffic controllers from the airport and puts them in a remote location.
The first larger airport to get a digital tower will be London City Airport and the digital tower will be from a company called NATS. The reason London City Airport is going to a digital tower is space. The older, aging tower is being torn down and rather than replace it in such tight confines and accommodate the growth needed, the airport is replacing the physical tower that is at the airport with a tall camera mast.
That camera mast will have individual cameras for each direction the traffic controllers need to look and separate pan and tilt cameras on top for redundancy. All the camera feeds will be sent down a security and standalone network 80 miles away to NATS HQ in Swanwick. NATS says that the connectivity between that camera mast and the control center is “very robust and secure.”
The camera feeds are put up on massive screens in the HQ that offer a 360-degree view of air traffic over a space of 225-degrees. This means that controllers don’t need to look over their shoulder. There is an extra screen in the ops center that will automatically be activated if a screen fails and a main screen can be replaced in about ten minutes if needed.
The aircraft data is seen on the screen and tagged with AR data showing callsign, speed, and altitude making it easier for controllers to identify the aircraft. If all feeds did fail, NATS says that it would simply transition to the way the physical tower at an airport would if there was fog. The new remote tower is set to open in 2020.