Physical air traffic control (ATC) towers may soon be a thing of the past as virtual solutions offer cost savings and added safety. Instead of an on-site tower, virtual air traffic control rooms can be low-rise buildings located hundreds of miles away from the airport. Live video is displayed on screens for controllers, who can access and control cameras and other communication devices remotely. One virtual air traffic control room can manage multiple airports, perhaps even dozens at a time.
Virtual ATC rooms provide improved visibility to air traffic controllers. IP-based cameras powered by PoE can be located anywhere throughout the airport grounds. They offer 360-degree views and remote PTZ capabilities to see places traditional control towers cannot. Cameras with infrared or other special sensors enable enhanced viewing at night and during bad weather. Additionally, the video images can be superimposed with flight information to help controllers manage traffic and improve communication with pilots.
Virtual air traffic control rooms are much less costly to build than traditional towers in terms of physical building and equipment costs as well as operating costs. The scalability of virtual technologies results in additional cost savings. Airports can add switches and cameras as they grow and pay for equipment only as it is needed.
Norway is currently consolidating ATC from 15 small airports into one central virtual control room—with the potential to add even more airports in the future. The country anticipates savings of 30 to 40% in reduced building, equipment, maintenance and personnel costs thanks to the virtual solution.
IP-based camera networks for air traffic control contain numerous redundancies to ensure network availability. These include dual power supplies and additional routes for data. Because the virtual ATC tower can be located far away from the airport, it can stay up and running even if an emergency—such as a fire, power outage or terrorist attack—happens at the airport.
The stakes are very high for virtual air traffic control towers. Visualization and communication must continue at all times to ensure the safety of travelers as well as the efficient management of traffic flow. Reliable equipment and redundancies are a must, and it is essential to maintain the security of the data being transferred to protect airports from hackers and terrorists.
Solutions for Virtual Air Traffic Control
- IP-based cameras powered by PoE deliver high-definition video
- High-performance IP-based KVM matrix switching solutions provide access to safe and climate controlled physical or virtual servers in a central equipment room
- Industrial Ethernet switches are designed to withstand harsh conditions and provide instantaneous failover for mission-critical applications
- PoE industrial media converters power cameras and backhaul video traffic over long distances when integrated with fiber
- Dynamic video walls display data for air traffic controllers in real time
- Network accessibility enables controllers and administrators to view video feeds from any web-enabled device
While virtual air traffic control towers are still very new (the first one began operating in 2015) and not yet widespread, the advantages they offer suggest that they will soon replace physical towers even at the world’s biggest and busiest airports.
Black Box has the equipment and expertise to help you plan and implement a reliable, secure and cost-effective virtual ATC infrastructure. Visit our airports solution page to learn more about Black Box ATC technology solutions or contact us today to get started.