Recently the results of the first trials for Remote Tower operations in the Netherlands were documented and published as part of a SESAR Joint Undertaking report. These unique trials took place in September last year.

On September 8, 2016, for the first time, tower control services in the Netherlands were provided from a remote location. Tower control operations at Groningen Airport Eelde were transferred to the Remote Tower Centre (RTC) at LVNL Schiphol-Oost (ATC The Netherlands Headquarters). During a working session of about two hours, control operations were carried out for both a Single Remote Tower concept with live traffic at Groningen Airport Eelde and a Multiple Remote Tower concept with live traffic at Eelde and concurrently simulated traffic in a Maastricht-Aachen Airport Beek environment.

The camera system for the outside view, including a Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) camera and several overlay options, was delivered to Eelde by Saab. Traffic for the Maastricht operation as well as a realistic tower working environment that was integrated in the live trial working position were simulated on the NLR ATC Research Simulator (NARSIM) platform. The Multiple Remote Tower operations lasted for 45 minutes. In addition to controlling the live traffic in Groningen, two departures and two arrival aircraft that were simulated in the Maastricht environment were controlled from the RTC. After a break of 90 minutes, the evening peak at Eelde was also controlled remotely from the Remote Tower Centre at LVNL. In total, 37 live movements were counted at Eelde.

The demonstration activity was part of the European SESAR Large Scale Demonstration project and was carried out in co-operation with Swedish ATC LFV and German ATC DFS, who both carried out their own demonstration sessions. In the Netherlands the focus of the tests was on operational feasibility aspects of both system and concepts for a busier and more complex airport such as Groningen Airport Eelde. Furthermore, the possibility of controlling traffic simultaneously on two airports was assessed.

The trials have been a major milestone in answering questions about the applicability of the Remote Tower concept in the Netherlands. It is expected that, in the future, the Remote Tower concept will lead to a more efficient deployment of air traffic controllers and a cost reduction for tower control operations. NLR plans to further use their Remote Tower simulation facilities in future research, development and implementation activities.

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