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London City Airport's flights to be controlled from 70 miles away

19 May 2017

London City Airport is set to become the first British airport to install a remotely operated digital air traffic control system, breaking with the century-long tradition of manned control towers.

Airport management says the digital version will give controllers better oversight of the runway.

A pioneering new digital air traffic control system will enhance safety and improve resilience, setting a new standard for the global aviation industry to follow. Controllers will be equipped with a range of tools including a close-up view of aeroplane movements along the 1.5-km runway and cameras which can zoom in up to 30 times for close inspection.

The current control tower is reaching the end of its operational lifespan, he said, with the new technology already in use at Sweden's smaller Ornskoldsvik and Sundsvall airports.

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London City Airport has announced it is to become the first United Kingdom airport to build and operate a digital air traffic control tower, with a multi-million pound investment in the technology.

Air traffic controllers at Swanwick centre will have access to live footage displayed on the 14 HD screens, which will display a seamless panoramic moving image, in addition to the audio feed from the airfield and radar readings from the London airspace.

London City Airport chief executive Declan Collier insisted he is "absolutely confident" the system is safe from the threat of a cyber attack.

The 50 metre digital tower was approved by the London borough of Newham in December of last year and construction will kick off later this year.

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After more than a year of testing, it is expected to become fully operational in autumn 2019.

The technology has been developed by Saab, a Swedish defence and security company, and will be introduced as part of a 350 million pounds development programme to upgrade London City Airport which will also include an extended terminal building, enabling it to serve two million more passengers a year by 2025. "But we are very confident that the systems we're putting in place here are secure, they're safe, they're managed very well".

Following a record-breaking 4.5 million passengers in 2016, London City Airport will become the first airport in the United Kingdom to introduce a digital tower.

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London City Airport's flights to be controlled from 70 miles away