Cranfield Airport for UK’s first digital control tower

Rohde & Schwarz has been selected by Cranfield University to install its fully IP R&S VCS-4G voice communications system in what is expected to be UK’s first Digital Control Tower at Cranfield Airport. The tower is expected to go live in December 2018.

For secure air traffic control (ATC) communications, Rohde & Schwarz will supply and install four controller working positions at Cranfield Airport with a full IP voice communications system (VCS). The R&S VCS-4G system provides a fully integrated digital solution embracing voice communications, video streams, data communications and other services. The solution integrates and interfaces smoothly the analogue radios and the existing analogue telephone lines with VoIP technology embedded in the fully IP based R&S VCS-4G system. Data streams as well as door access control and other functions are all handled within the VCS, making it a central platform for the implementation of the Digital Control Tower.

The state-of-the-art Digital Control Tower to be installed at Cranfield replicates what can be seen through the windows of a traditional air traffic control tower via a live feed of panoramic views across the airfield using HD cameras and sensors. Digital Control Towers provide air traffic control services by digitising and integrating airport functions and improve a controller’s situational awareness, enabling quick and informed decisions.

The new system will allow controllers to zoom in on aircraft, improving visibility. A mast will be installed at Cranfield Airport, equipped with cameras and sensors to record activity. The data will be projected onto a 360-degree view on large screens in front of air traffic controllers. As well as serving Cranfield Airport, the facility will further enhance Cranfield University’s research capabilities, which include the Aerospace Integration Research Centre (AIRC) and the newly announced Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC).

Constantin von Reden, Vice President Market Segment ATC at Rohde & Schwarz, said: “Digital Control Towers are the future for airports and we are excited and delighted that the R&S VCS-4G has been chosen for this pioneering project. Rohde & Schwarz is a pioneer in pure-IP based communications for air traffic control, and is a leader in the technology. With our system, Cranfield has chosen a seamless and fully integrated solution, which addresses the airport’s current communication requirements, and is capable of being adapted and modified as the airport grows in size and functionality.”

Cranfield Airport is operated by Cranfield University. Rob Abbott, Director of Aviation Operations at Cranfield University, said: “We are delighted to be working with a renowned and innovative supplier such as Rohde & Schwarz to deliver a critical element of the Remote Tower project. With the VCS supplied by Rohde & Schwarz, Cranfield continues to develop its approach to cutting edge air traffic service and research potential.”

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