The Federal Aviation Administration has moved to the next step to bring a remote traffic control tower to the Northern Colorado Regional Airport.
The agency issue a request for information last week, inviting companies to “demonstrate their abilities to provide the video, radar and communication array that the virtual control system will rely upon,” according to a City Council memo.
Loveland’s airport was selected as the site of the remote control tower in October 2015 as the first in the nation under the FAA. One other site in Virginia is testing a remote tower currently but through a private company.
“The system will employ advanced, ground-based sensor technology to monitor aircraft movement in the airport’s vicinity, providing remote air traffic controllers with the same information a brick-and-mortar tower would give them,” the memo stated.
A contractor is expected to be selected in the first quarter of 2017, with installation expected in the spring or summer. That would lead to certification in 2019.
According to airport director Jason Licon, the remote tower (it used to be called virtual, but remote fits better, Licon said) for the Loveland airport puts it at “the cutting edge of new technology and innovation.”
“You won’t have the $5 million facility to construct,” he said. “You’ll be able to take technology that exists off the shelf today, put cameras and radar feed into anywhere because it’s portable … as long as you have the bandwidth.”
Licon notes that airplanes can be flown halfway across the world, so why not control traffic in the same way?
“We’re really excited about its potential,” Licon said. “It’s going to save millions of dollars by being the first and also be innovative at the same time.”
Operations and maintenance costs for the remote tower will cost about one-tenth of a traditional tower, he said, which greatly helps a smaller airport such as Loveland’s.
It’ll greatly enhance safety operations as well, Licon added.
While there’s no guarantee that the remote tower will attract new carriers to the airport, Licon said it’s a “tool in our toolbox to be more attractive,” and “we hope that it will make us more highly possible for future service by having this additional system in our arsenal.”
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