New tower to offer leading technology for Royal Navy air traffic controllers

High-resolution cameras, data feeds and sensors will enable Royal Navy air traffic controllers to manage the skies above Cornwall from a remote location.

A new digital remote air traffic control tower is due to be installed for use by Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose’s satellite airfield at Predannack and will enable air traffic services to be conducted offsite. The technology will also enhance the controllers’ situational awareness, through video, automatic tracking, graphic overlays, environmental data and radar labels.

Built in partnership with Saab, the tower will be the first of its kind to be introduced to UK Armed Forces and is expected to go live later this year.

Currently, Air Traffic services at Predannack are provided by personnel physically located at the Aerodrome tower overlooking the airfield. Thanks to the new state-of-the-art tower and its technology, personnel will have access to “out of the window” views displayed via the cameras and other sensors onto a curved screen wall in a Air Traffic Controller Module based remotely within the ATC Tower back at RNAS Culdrose.

Navy air traffic controllers will have the ability to use the new system to provide all-round horizon scanning and automatically detect potential conflicts. From a practical point of view, it also removes the delays from travelling to the Aerodrome tower at Predannack from RNAS Culdrose.

This is an important step in the Royal Navy’s continued development and exploitation of remote system technology to enhance the way air traffic services are delivered

Cdr Mick Gladwin

Lt Paul Hollyoake from the Royal Navy said: “The use of this innovative technology will enable the control of aircraft at remote satellite locations from a central hub, therefore streamlining the operational effectiveness and cost efficiency of support to defence aviation.”

The funding for the project was provided by the Royal Navy’s Discovery, Assessment and Rapid Exploitation (DARE) Team. It is their role to exploit the latest technology and get it to the frontline, creating a more sustainable and innovative method of operations across the navy. DARE received funding for the tower from the Defence Innovation Fund.

Magnus Lewis-Olsson, Chairman of Saab UK, said: “Saab’s leading air traffic management technologies have a beneficial role to play for both British civilian and military customers. The Royal Navy’s adoption of digital towers is an advanced forward-leaning step for the British Armed Forces.”

It is the first step towards a larger air traffic management digitisation plan that includes evaluating the scope for more remote towers at other Royal Navy air stations.

Cdr Mick Gladwin from the Royal Navy added: “This is an important step in the Royal Navy’s continued development and exploitation of remote system technology to enhance the way air traffic services are delivered, improving controller efficiency and providing a safe operating environment for air systems.”