Full view from afar – a new generation of flight operations


When the idea of a “Remote Tower" came to life 25 years ago,  it did – admittedly – sound somewhat audacious. Having planes take off and land without being able to physically see them at airports that are also hundreds of miles away from the controller working in a Remote Tower sounded a bit like Agent Ethan Hunt’s assignments in the movie "Mission Impossible”. But while viewers can sit comfortably in their cinema seats and snack on popcorn, it takes a lot of technology and, above all, in-depth know-how for air traffic controllers to safely pilot aircraft through take-off and landing phases from a distance. What at first sounded like one of the surprise twists in “Mission Impossible” has been an accepted approach among air traffic control authorities worldwide for several years. More and more airports, especially smaller ones, are relying on a Remote Tower concept. Here in particular, air traffic can be managed more intelligently and economically – without controllers having to tread water.
Securtiy system at the airport

Not quite as spectacular as the agent jumping out of burning cars and rappelling over the roofs of skyscrapers, but just as remarkable is the performance of the air traffic controllers in HungaroControl's Remote Tower in Budapest. With its remote tower concept and around 100,000 flight movements per year, the airport is one of the first European airports that can be controlled remotely. The controllers are supported by a lot of technology such as state-of-the-art camera infrastructures that provide real-time images and a 360-degree view of the airport apron.

For Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) monitoring the airport, it is extremely important to have a direct view from the tower. Managing the ground, landing and departure movements from a virtual tower without a direct view of the airport terrain and the runways is an innovative approach and a challenge, HungaroControl has successfully tackled. The result was one of the most modern remote flight monitoring centers in Europe to that point.

About HungaroControl

The Hungarian Air Navigation Services Organization HungaroControl monitors the airspace over Hungary and provides air navigation services and training for air traffic control personnel. The mission of the company is to provide a safe and reliable service in an efficient, customer-oriented, cost-effective and transparent manner For the Remote Tower in Budapest, HungaroControl counted on state-of-the-art solutions that offer 24/7 support to the ATCOs working there.
To the website of Hungaro Control
From a new control room near the Budapest airport, HungaroControl monitors the airspace over Hungary and supports airplanes during their descent, landing and departure. Originally, HungaroControl was located in the Budapest airport tower for many years. But in 2015, the management decided that is was time for some radical changes. With a 30 year old infrastructure, the original tower of Budapest Airport had become rather outdated The ATM systems had already been upgraded several times and the capacities for further modernization had been extensively exhausted. In addition, it had to be ensured that the entire airport could still be controlled even if the tower would be shut down for renovations. Key aspects were the increasing of both security and productivity. An entirely new control system, which is independent of the airport itself and thus operated by HungaroControl, had to be set up for flight operations.

Remote Tower goes on air

The Budapest project created a powerful solution that piloted airplanes safely and reliably through the landing and take-off phases and took advantage of the satellite-based arrival and departure procedures. All of the above is controlled from a remote control room – the Remote Tower. For the technical implementation this meant designing new, modern and efficient workstations for improved workflows as well as implementing the exact requirements for redundancy, safety, productivity and optimized ways of maintenance. Here, a huge video wall with 32 monitors displaying the surveillance images of all thermal cameras installed at the airport and monitoring the airport operation around the clock played a central role. For the sophisticated KVM concept, one opted for systems from Guntermann & Drunck GmbH (G&D).
Illuminated airport runway

Ready for take-off

Hungary's remote tower concept is based on the integration of a brand new A-SMGCS ground monitoring system and a camera network installed at several locations at the airport. Around the clock cutting-edge thermal cameras are transmitting video feeds to four video wall servers. Using a ControlCenter-Digital KVM matrix, the feeds are displayed on the control room video wall. This way, the airport apron and runways are always visualized. A video wall consisting of 32 screens does not only provide ATCOs with comprehensive visual information, but also offers an overview of the entire airport. A mirrored, redundant video wall server system can be accessed via KVM matrix simply by pressing a button and ensures that the complete airport apron can still be monitored, even in case of a fault.
In order to optimally implement the requirements for safety, redundancy, productivity and optimized maintenance, Hungarian integrators StudioTech developed a concept for the redundant KVM setup of the control computers and their spatial removal from the control room.

A look inside the Remote Tower

The remote tower control room of the Hungarian air traffic control includes five controller working positions, each of which has access to several computers. A part of the computer equipment has been moved to an air-conditioned and secure server room and is also made available at the workstations via the KVM matrix switch ControlCenter-Digital. Thanks to DVI-CON user modules, the operators can access the remote computers as if they were placed at the controller table.

The invisible wingman

What sounds self-evident and intuitive to use is only made possible by the KVM equipment running in the background. KVM systems relieve air traffic controllers of their work without being perceived by them – like an invisible wingman behind the scenes.
But not only the video wall servers and control computers were built redundantly in the remote tower in Budapest. A second, completely mirrored matrix switch ControlCenter-Digital backs up the installation if, in the event of a fault, the other matrix fails. The full redundancy therefore ensures that all controllers can continue their work as usual.
computer modules
redundant Matrix-System
console module

Preventive health management

The SNMP monitoring of the operating conditions of all KVM components ensures the automatic switching between main and redundant computer. The monitored values are sent as SNMP trap and are then made available to the technical personnel. The technicians can use SNMP-GET to proactively query values and thus monitor the system conditions of the KVM devices and the connected peripherals.

Making the impossible possible

With the new concept, HungaroControl also has increased both the fail safety and the availability of all systems, significantly reduced the noise and waste heat emissions in the control room and now benefits from efficient, ergonomic and user-friendly work processes. At the same time, the work of the IT staff has become considerably easier. Technicians are now able to maintain and configure the computers in a separate server room without interrupting the work of the ATCOs. The full redundancy of the systems guarantees maximum safety.
Whether arrival, departure or managing ground traffic – for every flight movement G&D’s KVM offers invisible support for ATCOs who can now fully rely on the technology in the background while working on their responsible tasks. At the end of the day, they can simply say: “Mission possible”. Making the impossible possible – even without cool stunts and crazy action like in the movies, the controllers from Budapest's Remote Tower ensure reliable take-offs and landings and thus the safety of all passengers.

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