Airports are increasingly relying on remote-controlled and artificial intelligence technology, which is replacing actual people in airport traffic control towers.
The system – using remote control, cameras and sensors – has already existed at Sweden's Ornskoldsvik airport since April this year, and has recently rolled out at the Leesburg Executive Airport in Virginia.
According to the U.K.'s National Air Traffic Service (NATS), the system could revolutionize air traffic services and reduce costs. The system itself, designed by Swedish defense company Saab, uses 14 HD cameras and sensors to identify airplanes regardless of weather conditions and visibility. The system would ideally allow a person sitting miles away to control it — this has already been established in Ornskoldsvik.
One of the most important questions that come to mind is safety. Apparently, the technology can outperform humans.
"The cameras and sensors pick up and see aircrafts in any environment — in fog, rain and the dark," said NATS general manager of operations Paul Jones to BBC. "It is better than the human eye."
The system could also allow for "pop-up" airports that the military could deploy in war zones, tethering the system to mobile objects like trucks as opposed to just towers.
Jones outlines that there is a big push toward creating these kinds of backup hubs in U.K. airports.
"The introduction of remote control towers is one of the most exciting technological developments in the history of our industry," he continued. "We're excited by what remote towers could mean for airports' business."