London City Airport's new digital air traffic control tower 'safe from cyber attack'

Telegraph Reporters
NATS personnel give a demonstration in the operations room at National Air Traffic Services (NATS) Swanwick in Hampshire, which will direct aircraft at London City Airport using the UK's first remote digital air traffic control tower - PA

London City Airport is to become the first UK airport to install a digital air traffic control tower.

Air traffic controllers who have until now looked out from the tower to direct planes for take off and landing will be moved to a virtual control tower more than 80 miles away.

The airport will decommission its traditional tower in 2019, meaning aircraft will be directed from Hampshire by controllers watching live footage from high-definition video cameras.

Declan Collier, London City Airport chief executive, said he was "absolutely confident" the system is safe from cyber attack.

London City Airport Credit: CHRIS RATCLIFFE

He said: "We are very confident that the systems we're putting in place here are secure, they're safe, they're managed very well.

"We use the highest level of cyber security in order to protect our systems."

Controllers will see a 360-degree view of the airfield in more detail than by using the human eye, according to the airport.

Under the existing system, controllers sit in a tower overlooking the runway to direct around 300 flights per day.

A live feed from the 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras able to pan, tilt and zoom will be sent via fibre cables to a new operations room built at the Swanwick base of Nats, Britain's air traffic control provider.

The technology has already been tested in Australia, Sweden, Norway and Ireland.

Controllers will use the footage alongside an audio feed of ambient noise from the airfield and radar readings from the skies above London to instruct aircraft and oversee movements.

Nats airports director Mike Stoller said: "Digital towers are going to transform the way air traffic services are provided at airports by providing real safety, operational and efficiency benefits.

"We do see this as being a growing market place across the UK and the world."

Some 4.5 million passengers used London City Airport last year.

It is embarking on a £350 million development programme including new aircraft stands and an extended terminal building to enable it to serve two million more passengers per year by 2025.

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