At the end of last year, Rory Hedman, one of our ATM and airport consultants, attended the CANSO Operations Standing Committee full working group meeting in Amsterdam to start his new role as Secretary of the CANSO Smart and Digital Towers (SDT) Task Force.
The CANSO SDT Task Force aims to provide leadership in the area of Digital Towers for the benefit of CANSO members and global ATM. Below we provide a brief flavour of what the Task Force are working on and our own insight into why we feel there is a need for such materials to be produced.
Since the meeting last year, Think and the other members of the SDT Task Force have been working hard producing materials to assist CANSO members and the wider community. The aim is for this to include a user-focused document intended to introduce the Digital Tower concept and discuss the key aspects to consider within a Digital Tower programme.
Recently, the Task Force have been discussing the benefits that Digital Towers can generate for various stakeholders. However, the group has not shied away from considering the challenging aspects, including everything from the challenge of stakeholder acceptance and change management to the potential for cross border operations and the concerns surrounding this.
From our own experiences of supporting ANSPs at various stages of their Digital Tower programmes, we know that the addition of new operationally focused guidance materials is overdue. For the benefits of Digital Tower technologies to truly be accessible to the majority of ANSPs and airports and for the challenges to be overcome as a collective, the industry needs to provide a clear regulatory steer, coupled with operational support and technical guidance. The regulatory steer is being provided, in the best way possible considering the concept is considered to be somewhat fluid. This includes updates to ICAO documentation which introduced remote tower related content into PANS-ATM. As a result many national regulatory bodies are now updating their own publications. Last year the UK regulator provided their Policy for Approval of Aerodrome Remote Towers and EASA updated their guidance materials on Remote Tower Operations. The industry is definitely attempting to provide more high quality and useful information on this concept, and alongside CANSO, there are many industry bodies, including ICAO and EUROCAE, working on providing new and updated materials in the next year or so.
For now, the EASA guidance is currently one of the best sources of operational information for anyone unfamiliar with Digital Towers and wanting to consider an implementation programme. Yet as it is a regulatory guidance material it still lacks the ability to directly draw upon the specific experiences of early adopters and actual operations. This is where the CANSO guidance materials hope to position themselves. Providing information to global ANSPs of all sizes, so they may benefit from the lessons of early adopters and the knowledge gathered to date. The ultimate aim is that the outputs of the CANSO SDT Task Force contribute to the international effort to facilitate and harmonise the deployment and operational application of Digital Tower technology.
A greater uptake of digital technologies within the tower environment should improve the cost-benefit for many ANSPs/airports. However, the question still remains, why strive for Digital?
Although Digital Towers are certainly not always the solution for an airport or ANSPs operation, Digital Tower technology can enable wider network benefits. Its adoption is a positive move towards a truly digitalised network, one where the tower and its functions are able to connect to the wider ATM network and airport operations in a way not currently possible. Facilitating a more connected and ‘smarter’ ATM network.
In the meantime, the CANSO SDT Task Force continues to work on producing content and Think look forward to continuing to provide support and to hearing about other exciting CANSO developments at World ATM Congress in Madrid later this year.
If you are interested in participating in the CANSO Smart Digital Tower Taskforce, please contact us!
Photo: CANSO Operations Standing Committee (OSC Full Working Group Meeting 2019 [Credit CANSO]