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Old 22nd May 2017, 21:26   #81 (permalink)
 
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But do the ATCOs at said airfields control a/c at other locations..........Simultaneously, good egg?
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Old 22nd May 2017, 21:44   #82 (permalink)
 
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ATC is a bit like 'Space-time', good egg...........A continuum.
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Old 22nd May 2017, 22:15   #83 (permalink)
 
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This feels like Groundhog Day all over. Same answers (from me, my personal opinion) as above/as stated in other threads on this topic.
I don't know what the ultimate objective might be, if there is one. I can speculate, like anyone can. I could offer a ton of reasons why the current VCR is not fit for purpose "going forward" - for want of a better term!
But each battle should be weighed up on the pros and cons.
There's little point in limiting progress for the sake of it. Where the benefit outweighs the cost then progress should be made. When the benefit doesn't outweigh the cost then a line has to be drawn.
Where that line is is disputable on a subjective front. On an objective front it is more measurable.
Both measures are important, of course, but the balance of both - in particular with regards to safety should surely rule?
No airport, no ANSP, no regulator would accept anything less, and nor should it.
Safety is always the priority, despite market pressures.

Safety is assured on the probability of failure, and what the mitigations are for said failure - which is why current systems operate the way they do. Until a system is proved reliable it isn't accepted. Hence the time it takes for a system to be tested until it is proved reliable (and, that in the case of failure, the fallback measures are safe).
I am sorry if I have constructed "Groundhog Day", but I didn't really see the earlier posts. I will endeavour to read them.
You say that nothing in this proposition indicates anything of the sort ie reducing staff by getting one ATCO to do two ATCOs' work. Maybe not, but I struggle to see the possible benefits & savings if it does not involve cutting staff.
As you say, "there may be a ton of reasons why the current VCR is not fit for purpose". But, why can't either a new VCR be built, or the remote operation be exercised from, within the LCY complex?
I don't wish to "limit progress for the sake of it", but the whole ethos of ATC, as I was educated in it, appears to be under threat here. Either principles have changed drastically, or these principles have been abandoned (apparently under cost pressures). If so, I cannot imagine why they should have been & I am surprised that a body such as the Guild Of ATC has not been active in trying to uphold them. Does it still exist ?
"Until a system is proved reliable, it isn't accepted". I have to ask exactly how was this proof obtained ?
It is difficult to assess the benefits from my viewpoint - although, I accept that things may have moved on since my day. If so, I guess that I will have to accept that I am just a dinosaur !
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Old 22nd May 2017, 22:17   #84 (permalink)
 
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Zooker, I'm guessing you see this move (LCY to Swanwick) as a precursor for tower controllers simultaneously controlling more than one airfield/runway?
That is a valid concern - and one which would face fierce opposition I'm sure.
But there's no suggestion, certainly from what I've read/seen, that anyone is saying that LCY controllers would have to get dual-valid at a.n.other airfield and provide both services simultaneously.
Probably be better to stick to facts rather than fiction. Should such a hypothetical situation be the case then that's the time to challenge it.
As the case is, it's a question of whether a controller can operate using video rather than seeing out of a set of windows. That point has been proven (albeit at lower intensity airfields).
If it's safe to do it at low intensity airfields what's to prevent it being used at high intensity airfields?
A low intensity airfield might involve 3 aircraft an hour, but they could be concentrated in a 3 minute period - what's to prevent that same 3 minute period being replicated 20 times in an hour?
If it's safe to do it's safe to do.
It's the same job, regardless of the scale. If the equipment is fit for use, and the controllers are suitably trained, then the bigger question is why not, rather than why?
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Old 22nd May 2017, 22:29   #85 (permalink)
 
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Will this require a separate rating?...............ADI/ADV/ADS?
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Old 22nd May 2017, 22:54   #86 (permalink)
 
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Originally Posted by kcockayne View Post
I am sorry if I have constructed "Groundhog Day", but I didn't really see the earlier posts. I will endeavour to read them.
You say that nothing in this proposition indicates anything of the sort ie reducing staff by getting one ATCO to do two ATCOs' work. Maybe not, but I struggle to see the possible benefits & savings if it does not involve cutting staff.
As you say, "there may be a ton of reasons why the current VCR is not fit for purpose". But, why can't either a new VCR be built, or the remote operation be exercised from, within the LCY complex?
I don't wish to "limit progress for the sake of it", but the whole ethos of ATC, as I was educated in it, appears to be under threat here. Either principles have changed drastically, or these principles have been abandoned (apparently under cost pressures). If so, I cannot imagine why they should have been & I am surprised that a body such as the Guild Of ATC has not been active in trying to uphold them. Does it still exist ?
"Until a system is proved reliable, it isn't accepted". I have to ask exactly how was this proof obtained ?
It is difficult to assess the benefits from my viewpoint - although, I accept that things may have moved on since my day. If so, I guess that I will have to accept that I am just a dinosaur !
Kcockayne, I'm an advocate of experience (believe it or not!).
There are lots of ways that sharing of experience helps...whether we're talking about valid ATCOs or trainees.
GATCO does provide opinions on such subjects...and I'm pretty sure they're opposed to simultaneous operations too, from what I've seen (quite rightly, in my opinion).

I am purely guessing here, but there are opportunities provided by co-locating APC with ADC. If APC is short, for whatever reason, by a controller what does that mean for arrival regulation to said airfield? What if ADC was short, for whatever reason, by a controller what does that mean for arrival regulation?
If the difference between the two arrival regulations is significant then maybe it'd be worth cross-validating controllers? Just a thought....
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Old 23rd May 2017, 06:21   #87 (permalink)
 
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Will this require a separate rating?...............ADI/ADV/ADS?
I sincerely hope not - especially for the controllers involved - that would surely limit their (future) ability to transfer jobs to other (non-digital) airports.

I can't see why it would require another rating. It's the same job, with the same responsibilities, using the same skills.

As far as I know there's not a separate rating for it in Sweden.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 16:29   #88 (permalink)
 
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According to Wikipedia, NATS is a private/public partnership, 49% owned by the UK Government. This means that whoever has the 51% stake will be keen to maximise profits, but the Government probably are too, to help reduce the Country's deficit.

Having a remotely operated Tower is presumably their beancounter's way of doing this - if they can make it work. They will have to pay for the technology once but will save thousands of pounds in London staff wages etc, year on year, and will no doubt roll it out to other airfields.

Instead of each Tower needing its own extra controllers to cover shifts, leave, and sickness etc, one set of spare controllers could cover several Towers controlled from the same room at Swanwick. I don't know the figures so am going to pluck some out of the air and guess at 10 controllers for a small airfield Tower - so say four Towers that used to need a total of 40 staff could be remotely controlled by a complement of say 20 staff at Swanwick?

My figures might be way off but the principle is what I am talking about.

Someone on this thread said the Met office now use remote sensing instead of experts 'on the ground', and I think their forecasts are worse than they used to be. Where I live, they are often plain wrong. I fear this will happen with NATS. En route controller frequencies are already getting busier and busier because more and more traffic is being controlled by fewer and fewer contollers, to the detriment of the service and flight safety.

No amount of cameras, automatic drone spotters and other gizmos can make up for the situational awareness that comes from actually sitting in the Tower with one's binoculars - seeing the Red Arrows cross your airspace, observing the storm clouds in the far distance, watching the police, ambulance or traffic helicopter and all manner of SA clues and cues that you just won't get in the same way on a couple of HD screens.

And of course, when the video links go down - and they will !! - What then ??

Last edited by Uplinker; 23rd May 2017 at 16:40.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 18:47   #89 (permalink)
 
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No amount of cameras, automatic drone spotters and other gizmos can make up for the situational awareness that comes from actually sitting in the Tower with one's binoculars - seeing the Red Arrows cross your airspace, observing the storm clouds in the far distance, watching the police, ambulance or traffic helicopter and all manner of SA clues and cues that you just won't get in the same way on a couple of HD screens.

And of course, when the video links go down - and they will !! - What then ??
But you will see the Red Arrows, the storm clouds and all the helicopters you mention!

Your point about the visuals failing is the important one. The redundancy and resiliency of the system is key. If the visuals did fail then the fallback is effectively LVPs - which would certainly affect capacity until the visuals became serviceable again.

Losing visuals and comms would effectively shut the airport. But then losing comms would effectively shut the airport with its traditional tower too.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 18:57   #90 (permalink)
 
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What about depth perception? Is that just overrated?
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Old 23rd May 2017, 19:03   #91 (permalink)
 
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Related to depth perception is parallax.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 19:35   #92 (permalink)
 
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And of course, when the video links go down - and they will !! - What then ??
The NATS rep interviewed on TV last week made great play of the fact that there would be no fewer than 3 diverse comms links between LCY and Swanwick to provide redundancy/fallback.

She omitted any mention of the obvious single-point failure modes, not least the camera installation.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 19:57   #93 (permalink)
 
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"But then losing comms would effectively shut the airport with its traditional tower too.

Not necessarily, good egg.

The airfield I worked at had an 'ECU', an Emergency Control Unit. It was a 'Portakabin', located a considerable distance from the control tower, from which an Aerodrome/Approach Control Service could be provided in the event of the main facility becoming unusable.

Many years ago, contractors had to remove asbestos from the control tower building and many of us provided Aerodrome Control from this facility for an entire week-end.

I believe EGLL has the digital equivalent of this facility today......In my book, an acceptable use of this technology.

Many years ago, a comms failure at EGNX resulted in one of the ATCO providing a very limited service using the radio in a light a/c parked in front of the tower.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 20:00   #94 (permalink)
 
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That's great Zooker, but I'm fairly certain LCY doesn't have that facility.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 20:10   #95 (permalink)
 
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I'm sure they don't, but neither does the place I worked at........Said 'Portakabin' was wrecked in a gale, but hasn't been replaced.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 21:13   #96 (permalink)
 
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I suspect that for all but the largest operations that there is little point in providing such a facility due to the reliability of the current facility and the prohibitive cost of setting up a spare one which would be used so infrequently.
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Old 24th May 2017, 04:44   #97 (permalink)
 
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My point about the visuals is that a few cameras displayed on a couple of flat screens does not give the 360 degree instant zoom in / zoom out and geospatial surround picture that the human eye/brain in tandem with instantaneous head movement does. There is also no depth perception available.

The human being in the actual Tower can simultaneously track all the local traffic, the approach and departure traffic and what is happening down on the ramp whilst taking in the weather conditions and any number of similar situational awareness cues.

Having to pan and zoom cameras all the time it is easy to get disorientated and miss the big picture.

As for video audio and comms links, well I was in that field for 16 years..........Good luck.

And this is all for what? To make controllers lives easier? To improve safety? To increase traffic flow?

NO. To make more profit, that's all.
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Old 24th May 2017, 05:37   #98 (permalink)

 
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ATC centres have managed with remote comms over many, many miles for years.

Indeed as have many airports, LHR tower uses two off-site Tx/Rxs.

Any ATC unit requires two completely separate and independent RT comms systems to function.

Last edited by Gonzo; 24th May 2017 at 14:05.
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Old 24th May 2017, 08:42   #99 (permalink)
 
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Originally Posted by Uplinker View Post
My point about the visuals is that a few cameras displayed on a couple of flat screens does not give the 360 degree instant zoom in / zoom out and geospatial surround picture that the human eye/brain in tandem with instantaneous head movement does. There is also no depth perception available.

The human being in the actual Tower can simultaneously track all the local traffic, the approach and departure traffic and what is happening down on the ramp whilst taking in the weather conditions and any number of similar situational awareness cues.

Having to pan and zoom cameras all the time it is easy to get disorientated and miss the big picture.

As for video audio and comms links, well I was in that field for 16 years..........Good luck.

And this is all for what? To make controllers lives easier? To improve safety? To increase traffic flow?

NO. To make more profit, that's all.
You've raised some concerns that you, and others, will hold about this technology.

Depth perception is regularly raised as a concern but depth perception is only effective over a relatively short distance (in the order of a few hundred metres). I'd suggest that, in a lot of cases, the control tower is further from the runway than this effective distance and, that even in cases where it's not, that trying to apply any form of separation based on depth perception from the tower is ludicrous.

Your views on multitasking are at odds with what has been learned on the subject over the years. Indeed the whole field of "human factors" has progressed massively. Some people will mock the field without ever reading or learning more about it but that is ignorance, whether conscious or unconscious.

Do you have any experience of operating a PTZ tailored for Air Traffic Control use? It's difficult to be objective about it if you haven't.
(Also, from experience, controllers don't use binoculars all of the time - they are used infrequently and only when something is required to be seen in more detail - so why on earth would controllers be "Having to pan and zoom cameras all the time"?)

Everything I've read, seen and heard from controllers who operate and who have tested digital tower systems has led me to believe, providing redundancy and resiliency measures are effective, that this is a positive safety step for airport ATC provision...and I'm not just talking about glossy press releases.
The consistent feedback I've had from those controllers are the improvement in their view over the airport and the improvement in their situational awareness. (Incidentally traditional tower mullions obscure the view of an airfield to some extent, depending on their siting, width, distance from the controller, etc...you may laugh at that, yet the blind spots these can create have been factors in ATC incidents and will continue to present a risk. That is just one of the ways, tiny it may seem, that digital towers can improve the overall view to the controller.)

Digital towers are not a cheap option. What they do open up is potential for "efficiencies down the line" (Mike Stoller, NATS Airports Director), i.e. pooling of multi-disciplined controllers with potential for more flexible staffing over a number of airports.
The unions are, rightly in my opinion, vehemently opposed to a controller simultaneously controlling more than one airport at a time - that scenario would open up a huge amount of issues. I'd also suggest that during a shift it may be inadviseable for a controller to plug in at Aiport A then switch (with or without a break) to plug in at Airport B. These are issues that are yet to be faced and will be subject to intense scrutiny.
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Old 25th May 2017, 16:52   #100 (permalink)
 
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I am not an ATCO, I am a pilot*.

Good luck with it: I just worry that this is being marketed as a great leap forward when the underlying reasons are surely to reduce manpower, i.e. your jobs.

And it cannot possibly be the same as a controller physically being there in the Tower.

If the remote digital tower was laid out like an actual tower, with giant HD screens surrounding the controller where the windows would be, then it might work, but the field of view for each 'window' would need to be from above the horizon to what? 45 degrees down? The human eye brain is an awesome combination: using processing and memory to build up a 3D 360 degree picture that appears simulultaneously zoomed in and wide angle**. A camera lens has to have a particular focal length at any one time, which limits this.

I would also have concerns about the low-light performance of the cameras and also how they dealt with highlights, such as the sun shining directly down the lens - again, the human eye/brain combination can cope with a huge contrast ratio that cameras cannot. As for zooming and panning, it was claimed that any 4 pixel object such as a helicopeter or drone could be tracked, how do you do that without zooming and panning?

*I have made it a point to visit the control towers of the airfields where I have been based (and some where I wasn't, e.g. The old EGLL Tower), and it is always a fascinating experience. I did fly in and out of London City between about 2002-2005, but there was never time on a turnaround to visit the tower there.

** If you have ever tried to take a picture of a sunset or the moon, you will know how different the sun/moon appears in the photo against how it seemed at the time to your own eyes.
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