Rarely does the word efficiency come to mind when talking about Airports. But now there is a cutting edge technology that could revolutionize how airports are run. Remote controlled air traffic controllers.
This technology is very limited; it’s only used at a single regional airport in the back woods of Sweden. But the world has taken notice. Paul Jones, operations manager at NATS, which provides air navigation services at Heathrow airport in England (the largest airport in the country), believes that it is the “next big thing for our industry.” With this development small airports like Ornskoldvik (the only place where this technology exists) can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The idea is that controllers from multiple airports will eventually meet at this central location and do their jobs from a much more convenient place. This is more cost effective, takes some burden off of the humans themselves, and also somehow much safer.
How it works, is that there are a series of cameras at the airport connected to a fiber optic cable that goes to the new control room where all the controllers would be located. It gives the operator a 3-d look at the airport as if they were sitting there themselves! This exciting stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, apparently there will eventually be an augmented reality headset the controllers can dawn and control the planes like a 3-d video game. According to the controllers themselves, they embrace this technology. Mikael Henriksson has been a controller for 40 years and he says “Controllers are already spending most of their time looking at a screen instead of out a window,” so they might as well do it around other people instead of by themselves!
Many of you are probably thinking, “this could easily get hijacked!” Well you’re wrong. The data transmitted between the camera tower and the remote control center is scrambled using dedicated hardware and encryption software, created by Saab, the automobile maker. If you’re still worried about your safety…its too late. Many of the large airports already have backup systems that are controlled from a separate location, so it’s pretty definite that this will eventually be universal.
I don’t necessarily get why this is such a big deal, but apparently it is groundbreaking to the airport industry so that's a good thing! Right?