Singapore Airport To Trial $5M Digital Air Traffic Tower

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Singapore has awarded a S$7 million (US$5.16 million) contract to UK-based NATS to trial a digital tower at its international airport.

To be tested over 22 months, the "smart" air traffic tower was designed to improve air traffic management, ground operations, and runway safety. Equipped with various assistive functionalities and features, the tower also would enhance operational efficiencies at the airport, said Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) in a statement Tuesday.

The industry regulator said NATS won the tender, which was first launched in February 2017, beating out two other applicants. The UK company currently provided air traffic control services at 14 airports in its domestic market, including Heathrow, Gatwick, and Standsted.

The service contract with Singapore encompassed the deployment of multiple fixed cameras to provide live video feed onto a wall, reflecting a similar view to what air traffic controllers currently see from a physical tower.

Expected to begin next year, the trial would pilot the use of camera and video stitching technologies to better display information.

"CAAS will then evaluate the operational feasibility before determining the suitability and robustness of such a smart digital tower for a busy airport like Changi Airport," said the local industry regulator.

It noted that other development efforts on digital tower operations had been focused on airports with low to moderate air traffic volume.

CAAS's director-general Kevin Shum said the announcement was in line with the country's smart nation ambition and initiatives to tap technology to transform the local aviation industry.

Voted best airport this year by Skytrax, Singapore's Changi Airport currently serves more than 100 airlines flying to some 380 cities in some 90 countries and territories. Some 7,000 flights land or depart from the airport each week, carrying more than 58.7 million passengers through Changi.