skeyes opens remote digital ATC test centre

Remote Towers
Belgium's ANSP skeyes is moving forward with its digital ATC project
The remote digital ATC test centre during the opening event (Image: skeyes)

Belgian ANSP skeyes has opened its Digital Tower Test Centre, which will act as the prototype for the digital control centre currently being set up by skeyes and Société Wallonne des Aéroports in Namur.

The test centre in Steenokkerzeel, Belgium is almost identical to the one being built in Namur. It will also be fed with real-time images from Liège and Charleroi but will not communicate with aircraft. The prototype centre will enable skeyes to familiarise staff with the new technologies, train air traffic controllers and refine the ergonomics of the centre in Namur.

SOWAER (Société Wallonne des Aéroports) and skeyes plan to open the Namur remote digital ATC Centre by 2026, to manage air traffic at Charleroi and Liège airports, which are 100km (62 miles) apart.

According to skeyes the digital control centre will ensure the operational safety of Walloon airports for the future and make aviation even more reliable and safe.

At the remote ATC centres air traffic controllers will receive images projected in real time onto large screens adter they have been relayed through masts equipped with high-quality cameras, infrared systems and intelligent sensors at the airports involved.

The screens display the horizon of their respective airport over the full 360°. A ground radar system also displays the exact location of aircraft even when they are hidden from the naked eye of controllers due to less favourable weather conditions. Augmented reality allows operators to project additional information at each aircraft which will help them manage traffic.

The skeyes project is one of the most advanced remote digital ATC projects in the world and will see the management of all ground movements, during landing and take-off at two medium-sized airports carried out from a remote location. For the first time. The integration of a ground radar system into the digital tower concept is also a first, said skeyes.

Meanwhile, the Digital Tower Centre is also taking shape at Namur with the laying of the foundation stones on April 9. In November 2023, the first mast was erected at Liege Airport which will initially supply the images to feed the test centre.

Skeyes is also preparing to build a digital control centre at Flanders, which will eventually serve the airports of Antwerp, Ostend and Kortrijk.