Remote Tower is a well-acknowledged concept these days to enable synergies and cost-efficiencies when providing aerodrome air navigation services (ANS). But there are still plenty of very small airports who cannot afford state of the art remote tower technology. Often, they only have a small number of commercial traffic, offer lower ANS levels like AFIS or UNICOM, and revenues are extremely limited.
But even those airports could benefit from remote tower technology. With it, they could share ANS efforts with other airports or with existing remote tower centers. On request of their customers, they could also offer higher ANS levels like ATC or prolong their opening hours. With little additional effort, this would make them more attractive and increase their revenues.
In a study, DLR, RWTH Aachen, and HS Osnabrück investigated if a very cost-reduced remote tower sensor system, consisting of two basic 180 degree panoramic cameras and a Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) camera, could satisfy such particular use cases of very small airports. Further it was explored, if a cost-driving factor like a multi-monitor video panorama display solution could be replaced by a much more cost-efficient and space saving VR headset while still satisfying the operators’ needs. The tracking functionality of the headset is utilized to intuitively control the PTZ camera, whose video stream is superimposed on the panorama video stream. Virtual control elements function as interface of the operator’s working position.
During first trials, nine ATCOs and AFISOs tested this setup with real life traffic at the Braunschweig-Wolfsburg aerodrome. In their feedback, the group acknowledged the potential of such a solution and called the idea a step in the right direction for such airports.