• Departing Alice Springs’ Runway 12 in one of Alice Springs Aero Club’s Cessna 172s. (Stuart Edwards)
    Departing Alice Springs’ Runway 12 in one of Alice Springs Aero Club’s Cessna 172s. (Stuart Edwards)

Airservices Australia has signed a contract with Saab to trial remote tower technology at Alice Springs Airport.

Signing the contract yesterday in Canberra, Airservices intends to evaluate the technology at Alice Springs from late 2012, with the control centre located more than 1500km away in Adelaide.

Airservices has been studying the potential technical, engineering, human factors and regulatory aspects of the potential introduction of the technology to Australia over the past year. Acting General Manager Air Traffic Control, Mark Rodwell, said the proposed evaluation of the technology would provide a good test of its viability in remote and harsh conditions.

“Due to the cost of primary and back-up data communications in Australia, we estimate the initial operating costs of a remote tower centre are roughly the same as a traditional tower to start with, but reducing over time,” Rodwell said.

Rodwell added that the harsh weather conditions in central Australia will provide a challenge for the project. And a lack of multiple communication systems in Australia’s sparsely populated interior means providing appropriate back-up paths for critical data in the event of an outage is also a challenging task.

Rodwell added that continued engagement with regulators, the industry, air traffic control workforce and the community would also be required.

“Such a leading edge technology will take a considerable amount of thought and discussion before gaining regulatory approval for its use,” Rodwell explained. “We look forward to working closely with our partners and regulators to place the technology in the air traffic control toolbox for future use.”

The announcement follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Saab and Swedish ANSP and airport operator Luftfartsverket for the delivery and support of a remotely operated tower solution last year.

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