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First Digital Tower in the United Kingdom Goes Live

The first operational digital tower in the United Kingdom has today been inaugurated by Cranfield University at their Bedfordshire airport with a system from Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions (SDATS).


This latest innovation in the UK’s aviation sector has been designed and delivered by Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions (SDATS), and is owned and operated by Cranfield University. The system consists of a sensor mast and a manned operations room at the airport, which will manage the air traffic in and out of the airfield.

“The Digital Air Traffic Control Centre is a significant boost for Cranfield’s global research airport and the research capabilities of the University. Combined with our existing and future facilities, it will cement Cranfield’s place as the home of the leading aerospace and aviation research, at the heart of the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth arc,” said Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Cranfield University.

“This is a historic moment for air travel in the United Kingdom and shows the future of the UK’s aviation sector lies in leading edge technology combined with operational expertise. Saab and Cranfield University started on this journey in October 2017, and have enjoyed an excellent working relationship that has resulted in today’s success. We look forward to welcoming more UK airports onboard as users of this innovative technology as well as to the research benefits that this facility will contribute to the marketplace,” said Johan Klintberg, CEO of Saab Digital Air Services.

Digital towers are a breakthrough within air traffic management and were pioneered in Sweden in 2015. The digitalisation of the data, thanks to Saab’s market-leading technology, can enable significantly higher operational efficiency, lower operating costs, and advanced safety and decision support systems. Installing a Digital Tower is often more economical than building or refurbishing a conventional air traffic control tower.

A digital tower replaces the conventional control tower with a camera mast to capture the out-the-tower-window view and transmitting it to a manned digital tower centre in another location. Digital towers are designed to be resilient and comply with cyber security best practices.

Cranfield’s global research airport offers a unique environment for transformational research into the aerospace sector. As one of the few universities in the world with its own airport, they are at the forefront of aerospace technology, working to address the challenges of digital aviation and rethink the airports, airlines, airspace management and aircraft of the future.

Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions is a joint-venture between Saab and LFV (the Swedish air navigation service provider), founded in 2016. By combining LFV's unique operational experience with Saab's world-class technical solutions, Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions is able to manage the entire process from planning and implementation to the administration of remote tower services. SDATS offers airports in Sweden and abroad a digital alternative for purchasing air traffic control services, thereby creating better financial conditions for airport operations.

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Saab serves the global market with world-leading products, services and solutions within military defence and civil security. Saab has operations and employees on all continents throughout the world. Through innovative, pragmatic and collaborative work, Saab constantly develops, adapts and improves new technology to meet the changing requirements of customers.


27 September 2019