The TowerLab is a unique research facility that complements the Apron and Tower Simulator of the Institute of Flight Guidance. It allows innovative concepts for working positions and support functions for tower controllers to be tested.
Tower controllers at the airport control aircraft in the control zone (approximately 20km around the airport), on runways and on the ground. In each case, the requirements can vary considerably. The major airports are mainly characterized by their high traffic volumes and professionally trained pilots. The smaller airports, in contrast, have low traffic volumes, but they still have lots of private and hobby pilots.
In the TowerLab, innovative working positions are validated that provide controllers with the support that they require. Besides conventional support systems such as approach radar, weather display and outside view, novel tools for controlling and manipulating air traffic are available. Special simulation software calculates the movements of the aircraft and sends these data to the radar display and outside view system. The aircraft are controlled in a fully automated manner or by pseudo pilots.
In the TowerLab, these tools can be used in different ways, new systems can be installed and even completely new concepts for working positions can be evaluated. Thus, this facility offers a wide range of research options for this field of air transport.
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Remote monitoring of airports: Remote monitoring using camera systems is a future concept for airports. To analyze this concept in the TowerLab, working positions are compared with conventional controller working positions. Research also focuses on the simultaneous monitoring of several airports from one central remote tower center as well as the associated working conditions.
Development platform: In the TowerLab, individual systems, graphical user interfaces and new technologies can be tested in an ATM environment without the need for complex installations or integrations. For example, the use of 3D stereo projections is analyzed as is the support provided to controllers by displaying additional information appropriate to the situation.
Complex, distributed ATM simulations: Many aspects of ATM research not only impact the work of controllers and pilots. Airport operators, drivers of ground vehicles and traffic planners are often equally affected by new systems and procedures. The TowerLab enables a virtual working position to be created quickly and flexibly and integrated into a complex, distributed simulation. A research topic can therefore be analyzed from several different perspectives through the coupling with all simulators of the Institute of Flight Guidance.
The TowerLab is highly flexible, particularly in terms of the controller consoles used. Unlike the consoles used in operations, these consoles can be fitted with new systems in a quick and flexible manner. Hence, the design of a controller working position can be tested in all its variants and can be carefully analyzed.
The controller has an outside view on high-resolution flat screens next to the console. Displays can be combined as desired, including 3D stereo displays. Innovative concepts, such as the remote monitoring of airports, can be prepared in this way.
Data and information can be sent to the working positions via various simulation components, allowing different operating conditions and simulation scenarios to be generated.
Apart from different ways to design the controller working position, additional measuring devices can be integrated into the TowerLab. One example is an eye tracking device that requires lots of room to perform exact measurements. Using these data, more detailed results of the systems assessed can be achieved.