450 kilometres away, the remote tower control centre in Leipzig handles the take-offs and landings at Saarbrücken Airport since the beginning of December 2018 with already 2,500 safely monitored flights. It is the first international airport in Germany that is no longer monitored from the local tower.
Even without a direct view from the tower, the air traffic controllers based in the remote tower control center in Leipzig can monitor the airport remotely on grounds of advanced camera system installed at Saarbrücken Airport. The combination of video and infrared cameras delivering a permanent 360 degree view of the airport provide the ten air traffic controllers in Leipzig with real-time images of the the airport which are displayed on a row of monitors. Controllers can select which section of the images they want to focus on. Furthermore, pan-tilt-zoom video and infrared cameras are part of the system so that the smallest details can be seen. Static cameras are used to monitor the apron.
The air traffic controllers have a much better view - especially during bad weather and at night - thanks to the infrared technology. Apart from that, the remote tower control system technology supports the controllers in their work by automatically detecting movements and highlighting as well as tracking objects. In general, the system is multiple-secured and camera and surveillance systems on site are redundant: If one system fails, another system can replace it.Last year, Saarbrücken Airport counted around 400,000 passengers and almost 11,000 take-offs and landings. Hence, the remote tower control centre in Leipzig is in charge of the world's largest airport which is monitored remotely during daily operations according to DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (DSF).
Next year, the Erfurt–Weimar Airport ist to be remotely controlled by Leipzig, then Dresden Airport will follow. Besides those, two more airports can be additionally added in the future, according to DFS. Possible candidates are Münster and Bremen, but nothing is certain yet. The long-term goals for the centre in Leipzig are to be able to flexibly take over the control of various airports. In general, remote tower control centres like the one in Leipzig are the future of smaller airports. It is expected to be able to deploy staff more efficiently and flexibly by setting up such centres and as a result to be able to reduce costs and increase productivity.
The growth in air traffic requires the increased use of digital technology. Technology that above all guarantees more security. DFS developed the remote tower system over the last four years together with the Austrian high-tech company Frequentis AG. The system successfully passed numerous tests under live operating conditions. Its joint venture Frequentis DFS Aerosense will market the system worldwide.