Jersey becomes first UK airport to manage air traffic using digital remote tower technology

Jersey Airport in the Channel Islands has become the first airport in the British Isles to achieve approval for the operational use of a digital remote tower.

Following a comprehensive testing period in recent months, including appropriate training for all air traffic controllers, this approval now allows Jersey Airport to control ‘live’ air traffic from its remote facility, located just south of the airfield, providing a contingency in the event of an evacuation of the main air traffic control (ATC) tower.

This is the first-time remote tower approval has directly involved EASA, which is the Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) Competent Authority for Jersey. The approval has also been endorsed by the director of civil aviation (DCA) for the Channel Islands, Dominic Lazarus.

Jersey Airport currently handles around 23,000 commercial movements annually and is the fifth busiest airport in the British Isles in terms of corporate and general aviation traffic, with more than 45,000 total movements overall.

The digital remote tower centre deploys technology from Frequentis AG, an international supplier of communication and information systems for control centres. It was supported by Systems Interface Ltd, a leading project-based aviation company with many years proven experience in supplying turnkey projects in civil and defence airports. The overall investment in the project, which was entirely funded by Ports of Jersey is £1.2 million.

On behalf of Ports of Jersey, senior air traffic controller, Les Smallwood said: “We have worked collaboratively with both Frequentis and Systems Interface to ensure Jersey Airport’s remote tower project was delivered successfully.

“In addition, this involved working closely alongside EASA to ensure all regulatory and training requirements were delivered, including approved conversion training. This was all achieved prior to shadowing and live training, and as a result we’re extremely pleased with the contingency remote digital tower and can achieve the same capacity as the conventional tower.”

Images of the airfield and its surroundings are delivered to the remote tower using a network of 13 HD cameras to create a 240-degree field-of-view of Jersey Airport, which is then ‘stitched’ together and the panoramic picture is displayed on three large screens at the nearby remote tower working position. The remainder of the equipment required is identical to the existing systems used in the conventional tower.

The business case for remote tower technology is compelling, potentially avoiding the need or expense of a conventional control tower and offering enhanced visibility and safety features as well as cost savings.

Ports of Jersey is now developing a business strategy to offer similar solutions to other airports within the UK and Europe. Active discussions are already taking place with other organisations interested in deploying this technology in the future.