HIAL hosts two-day exhibition of air traffic management technology it plans to introduce across its regional airports

The event is open to everyone and the company has invited over 250 stakeholders to the two-day (April 25 & 26) exhibition event which takes place over two days (April 25 & 26) at the University of the Highlands & Islands campus in the city, to improve stakeholder knowledge and understanding of the new and emerging Air Traffic Management Technology in use across Europe.

Cutting edge technology from leading industry players is on display with industry experts on hand to explain how it works and how it can benefit airport operations.

This is also an opportunity for local young people and students at the UHI to find out more about careers with HIAL, who employ over 600 people of which around 70 work in Air Traffic management.

Digital tower technology is currently being trialled all over the world, including Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States. Fifteen remote towers are scheduled to be installed in Norway in the near future.

Systems are designed to be resilient and comply with cyber security best practices. Cameras offer air traffic controllers with panoramic views of the airfield showing more detail than is possible with the human eye.

HIAL’s long-term remote towers and centralised approach surveillance control programme will mirror an already successful project in Sweden and transform the organisation’s operations at key airports including Stornoway, Inverness and Dundee.

The airports in Örnsköldsvik and Sundsvall in Sweden became the first in the world to be controlled via a digital control tower in Sundsvall in 2015.

HIAL’s proposed £28 million investment, over the next 10 to 15 years, is necessary to “future proof” its operations in Scotland against a background of business challenges including staff recruitment and retention, increasing regulation, and increasing pressure on costs. It’s also an opportunity to set up a centre of excellence for air traffic management in Scotland to provide training and expertise to airports across the world.

HIAL Managing Director, Inglis Lyon, said the event would play a significant role in the company’s commitment to share developments on the project with key stakeholders.

My Lyon said: “Our overriding priority is and will always be, to deliver safe and secure air navigation services that will keep our airports open for local communities for the long term,” he said.

“Having already involved our air traffic control staff and key stakeholders in the full review of our air traffic management operations by leading aviation consultancy, Helios, this latest stage of the project showcases the remote towers solution and the way in which it will operate within our airport network.”

“Our Air Traffic Management teams are also visiting airports who already have this type of technology in place in Sweden and Swanick. It’s really important that our teams fully understand what is being proposed.

“Remotely controlled towers are the future of air traffic management and we are embarking on a long-term project to make our airports fit for the future.”

The new operations centre will be responsible for air traffic management at HIAL airports at Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Wick John O’Groats, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula. Timescales for the implementation of the project have still to be fully discussed and approved.

HIAL airports at Barra, Tiree, Islay and Campbeltown have different levels of air traffic usage and will not be affected by the changes.

HIAL Chair, Lorna Jack, said the Board were clear on the rationale and the benefits likely to be delivered by the new air traffic management solution proposed.

Lorna Jack said: “This is a major investment for the business, but an investment which is required to ensure that we do what we are here to do which is to keep people flying, to ensure the long-term future for the business and our people and to continue to deliver new opportunities for the people of the Highlands and Islands and Tayside to connect with new locations around the globe,” she added.

She added: “Increasing air traffic demands as well as resultant regulatory changes within the aviation industry means that doing nothing is not an option and we will work with our staff and all stakeholder groups to ensure that the proposals work for all involved.”

Dr. Romano Pagliari, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Air Transport Management, Cranfield University, is a leading expert on airport management and policy.

He said: “The implementation of new technologies has the capacity to transform the way air transport operates, bringing greater efficiency and improved safety performance.

“Digital technology will play an ever-increasing role at airports and within air traffic management in the future. Digital control towers help integrate airport functions and offer controllers an enhanced view of the airfield in all weather conditions.”

No decisions have been reached in terms of the location of HIAL’s proposed operational centre, which will be the first remote tower centre of its kind in the UK, and Mr Lyon confirmed that an independent consultant is undertaking an options appraisal study which will make a recommendation to the HIAL Board in July.