At Örnsköldsvik Airport in northern Sweden, the tower is empty. Not for lack of traffic, but because Sweden has been testing the remote controlled airport, since the summer of 2014. Air traffic is controlled from the airport of Sundsvall, over 150 kilometres ( 95 miles ) away - but how does it work ?
At Sundsvall, the air traffic controllers receive all the information, together with 360 degree views of the airport, displayed on screens collected direct from the second airport by high definition cameras. The system also includes microphones, and infrared cameras for foggy conditions, together with weather sensors that measure wind speed and atmospheric pressure.
The Swedish company, Saab, system helps to maintain activity at airports with too little traffic, or which are inaccessible, to be profitable. At Örnsköldsvik, the experiment has been conclusive, and the airport will become the world’s first radio controlled airport at the end of April. Other tests are being conducted at Gothenburg airport, as well as in Norway, the Netherlands and Australia.
The system was designed for small airports like Örnskoldvik, which only receives four flights a day, and other developments are envisaged. On large airports, it could serve as a backup system in cases of main control tower breakdowns, and militarily, it would eradicate the need for insitu air traffic controllers at airports in a war zone.