State-owned air traffic control institution Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS is planning to transition the air traffic service in all regional Estonian airfields to remote and virtual towers (RVT) by 2025. Tartu Airport will be the first to make the change next year, Kuressaare Airport will follow in 2023.
Plane landings and take-offs will be monitored and directed from an air traffic control center in Tallinn using real-time feeds from regional airports. Currently, the Tallinn-Kuressaare plane, servicing the route on Wednesday evening, lands in Kuressaare with a flight informer present. In a year, this will be done from Tallinn.
A live feed of the airfield will be monitored from a traffic service center in Tallinn, where communication with the pilots is initiated. "There will be 16 cameras on the Kuressaare airfield, ensuring a 360-degree view with an additional two fully automatic binocular cameras, which will automatically zoom in on incoming planes," said Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS board member Jaanus Jakimenko.
One of the developers of the technology, Lauri Laasik, is a pilot himself and he confirms nothing will change for the pilot and they might not even understand where their communication partner is located.
"Nothing will change in terms of air traffic safety, nothing will change for the pilot because they will still communicate with the air traffic controller through radio. The local work organization will change, but the pilot knows nothing about this. They get in contact with a radio, receive their info about everything being okay on the airfield and they will land," Laasik said.
RVT technology allows for all necessary information to direct traffic to be displayed via video systems, which means traffic managers do not have to be at the airport to manage traffic.
The airport traffic service can be conducted from one central position instead of having to have managers at different airports, ensuring the service's availability around the clock, regardless of weather conditions.
Although analogous systems have already been developed and implemented in airports around the world, Estonia decided to develop a system of their own. The plan is to implement the system in all Estonian regional airfields by the year 2025.
The RVT system will cost some €5 million, but developer Cybernetica AS intends to take it to foreign markets. "We provide information about what is currently going on at airfields, what are the weather conditions and where another plane is located, if many are in the same airspace," said Kuressaare Airport air traffic controller Jaanika Teearu.
The cameras will be tested throughout the year with a controller present. Planes should be able to take off and land in Kuressaare without a controller there in the start of 2023.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste