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NEWS Last modified on December 4, 2018

Flights at Saarbrücken Airport now handled by air traffic controllers in Leipzig

Aircraft take-off and landings at Saarbrücken Airport in Germany are now being handled by air traffic controllers based in a remote tower 450 kilometres away in Leipzig.

The move, as a result of today's opening of German navigation provider DFS' new Remote Tower Control Centre in Leipzig, means that Saarbrücken becomes the largest airport in the world to have its daily operations controlled remotely.

The use of high-definition video and infrared cameras allows air traffic controllers to monitor traffic in the air and on the ground from the purpose built complex in Leipzig.

DFS notes that after a four-week introductory phase, remote tower control will become part of regular operations and that Saarbrücken will be followed by Erfurt and Dresden airports in the next few years.

The combination of video and infrared cameras that deliver a permanent 360-degree view of Saarbrücken Airport provide ATC staff in Leipzig with panoramic images of the airport which are displayed on a row of monitors set up above the controller working position.

Controllers can select which section of the image they want to focus on. Pan-tilt-zoom video and infrared cameras have also been set up, allowing the smallest detail to be seen. Static cameras are used to monitor the apron.

According to DFS, the remote tower initiative ensures that air traffic controllers have a much better view thanks to the infrared technology, especially during bad weather and at night.

It also claims that the remote tower control system supports the controllers in their work by automatically detecting movement and highlighting aircraft in the air and on the ground, along with other vehicles, on the monitors.

"Our remote tower system is an example of how new digital technologies can be used innovatively in the aviation sector," says DFS CEO Klaus-Dieter Scheurle, who notes that the system will enhance efficiency and maintain the high safety standards that DFS requires.

He also believes that the system developed by DFS is unique, stating: "We have established a new standard in the world of remote tower technology.

"It's a logical next step to control take-offs and landings remotely. Until now, remote tower solutions had been an option for very small airports with low levels of traffic only. Our system allows us for the first time to control a large international airport around the clock from one external location."

DFS developed its remote tower system together with the Austrian high-tech company Frequentis, while the video and infrared sensors come from the German group Rheinmetall Defence Electronics. 

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