Remote Tower FAQ

Q: How do I get involved with this project?
A: The RFI is CLOSED.  Vendor selection has been finalized 7/25/17 with Searidge Technologies.  Follow us on FB, Twitter, Google+, or our website for the latest updates.

Q: Will this make the Airport busier and noiser?
A: It is anticipated that the Remote Tower could initially reduce the amount of air traffic at the Airport, and enhance the flow of arrivals and departures.  Our Airport is a frequent training stop for many aircraft that operate from larger airports such as Rocky Mountain Metro in Broomfield and Centennial due to the flexibility and freedom of not having air traffic control for flight students.  With an active controlling entity, some of this traffic will likely shift to another airport without a tower.

Q: What are the primary reasons that the Remote Tower is being pursued?
A: The primary benefit of this project, like that of the benefits from a traditional ATCT, is to provide safe airport operations and improved efficiency to all users of the airport today and any new users or future uses the airport or community may wish to support such as UAS operations.  The ability to provide enhanced airport traffic services certainly will be a key factor in attracting renewed air carrier operations at FNL.  Airlines have expressed their interest in providing service at FNL and by having this system in place will allow the Airport to better attract and retain these service providers which would in turn create a realistic path toward financial self-sufficiency.

Q: What is the status of the program from a procurement and schedule perspective?
A: An unsolicited proposal presented to the FAA was recently rejected for cause.  The FAA NextGen Program Office are now actively meeting with other qualified technology vendors.  It is anticipated that an agreement will be executed between the FAA and a qualified vendor by November of 2016 with implementation beginning in early 2017.

Q: What is the system design as it is currently envisioned?
A: The system will consist of video-based surveillance on the airport surface that will support runway separation along with an existing track-based surveillance in the local airspace to furnish the controllers with situational awareness.  The system will provide Class D controlled airspace similar to that at Centennial, Front Range, and Rocky Mountain Metro Airports.  The idea is to provide the same level of air traffic control services as other similarly towered airports without imposing any additional aircraft requirements.

Q: Why was FNL Airport chosen as the test site for this project?
A: When considering the candidate airports in Colorado, FNL was selected based partly on its level of annual operations and the diversity of the user fleet.  The Durango – LaPlata County Airport was the other airport being considered.  Due to a variety of factors including the expressed desire of the Cities to participate, the relative ease of travel to and from FNL, and the potential to regain commercial air service, our Airport was chosen over Durango by CDOT and the FAA.

Additionally the FAA has conducted a benefit/cost analysis on the proposed remote tower and determined that FNL would qualify for the FAA contract tower program assuming it would be eligible upon certification.  Since there are no other remote towers in operation it would require additional eligibility considerations which Senator Gardner has been providing support for.

Q: What are the building/towers/mast/poles/embedded sensors, number of radar units, as currently proposed?
A: The infrastructure required to support remote tower operations as envisioned are:

  • Three camera masts and supporting communication and electrical service.
  • A building or rooms of sufficient size to support the operation and house the equipment racks. This site will be determined after final selection of a technology provider.
  • Access to fiber optic communication lines capable of supporting up to 150 Mbs for transmission of data.
  • The existing FAA radar at Platteville will provide the track based data and no additional radar equipment will be required for the baseline system requirements

Q: What is the anticipated return from the project?
A: Anticipated return is $1.3 million annually in direct revenue generation in addition to improved safety and airport services to the users.  Additional returns will include the direct and indirect local and regional economic benefits realized from new/returning air carrier service, along with the potential for UAS integration and related on and off airport economic impacts of the aviation activities.

Q: What is the anticipated cost to the Airport for implementation?
A: The Airport Commission has not been committed to funding any portion of the project implementation.  It was discussed that the Airport could have some level of participation much as the airports did in Phases I and II of the Wide Area Multilateration Project; however, CDOT Division of Aeronautics has not requested nor required a local funding commitment for the project implementation.

Q: What is the anticipated cost for continued operation?
A: It is hoped that the Airport will only have to pay for maintenance and support costs that could be as much as $190,000 annually.  The labor portion would be assumed by the FAA in the event that the Airport is deemed eligible and included in the FAA Contract Tower Program.

  • Staffing 3 FTE Air Traffic Controllers – $440,000 annually
  • Operation & Maintenance – $190,000 annually

Q: Who else will have a system like this?
A: As of today no airport in the world has the system currently proposed for FNL.  In the future it is expected that as the cost to construct traditional ATCT continues to increase more and more airports will seek to implement this alternative.

Q: What is the expected timeframe/rollout for additional systems?
A: It is difficult to estimate when another airport will be able to implement this solution. There are several factors that will drive the other systems being implemented, one being the final cost.  In any event, the earliest any other airport could expect to provide services based on the FNL deployment would be after the system is certified by the FAA.

Q: Is the state of Colorado committed to supporting more of these systems if this trial is successful?
A: The decision to deploy other systems in Colorado will depend on the availability of funding, and the Aeronautics Board’s consideration of whether to make funds available for systems after the one at FNL is completed.

Q: Do we risk being the only site with such a system or one of a very few sites, thus likely increasing operation/support costs after implementation?
A: Whenever a new system is proposed the possibility that it could be “one of a kind” always exists.  Once the system is certified by the FAA, the possibility of no other system being implemented is very unlikely.  The major items that will drive another airport’s decision to implement the system developed at FNL will be its need for improved air traffic services and ability to fund the project.  It is important to note that the FAA is actively engaged in the remote tower system, and has acknowledged their future importance in the June, 2016 NextGen Program Update.

Q: Provide an overview of other systems/architectures and how they compare to this one.
A:  The Leesburg VA airport system is in its testing phase.  Another system of that same type is fully operational in Sweden.

Q: How does the proposed system to be installed at FNL compare/contrast to the other systems?
A: The system currently being reviewed by the FAA in Leesburg is based on work done by the Saab Sensis Corporation and consists of an array of 14 video cameras on a pole.

The only remote tower systems in operation today are in Örnsköldsvik and Sundsvall airports in Sweden.  LFV Air Navigation System of Sweden in conjunction with Saab Sensis deployed these two systems which rely on video presentation of activity on the airport surface and in the local airspace to the controllers.  The system in Örnsköldsvik is operational while the system in Sundsvall continues to be evaluated by the Swedish Transportation Agency.

The system proposed at FNL varies substantially from the one under investigation at Leesburg, Virginia or in Europe in that it uses video cameras on the surface for surveillance and primary and secondary track based surveillance to provide situational awareness in the local airspace.  Essentially the video based systems will work well for lower activity airport environments where the track based (radar screen) primary system will work better for airports with higher levels of activity.