Pascall+Watson design for a new Digital Air Traffic Control Tower (DATCT) at London City Airport has recently gone live. The opening allows them to become the first airport in the UK and the first major airport in the world to operate exclusively under a single digital source of air traffic control. This places them squarely at the forefront of what is sure to be a global aviation trend.
The project formed part of our overall work on the City Airport Development Programme (CADP), aiming to increase the aircraft parking stands and enhance passenger facilities to support future growth. The programme covers an area of 60.1 hectares.
It includes main terminal buildings, terminal forecourt (including multi-modal transport areas), and replacement of the landside forecourt, 3-storey passenger pier, airfield re-planning, new/upgraded aircraft parking stands, western service yard, western energy centre, 260-bed hotel site, dockside parking and ancillary structures, and a new marine deck over the dock waters.
As part of the programme, the proposed relocation of some aircraft stands would have resulted in the obstruction of some views from the existing air traffic control tower, which is undersized and no longer sufficient to cater to new technologies. As a result, a decision was made to move from direct visual management of the airfield to a digital system that allows the controllers to be located remotely and utilise a comprehensive virtual system.
The new 55-metre high tower houses a set of 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom, have a complete view of the airfield, including the runway and taxiways, and also a view of each of the aircraft stands to both the west and the east sufficient to enable the management of all apron movements. This SAAB data technology feeds to a virtual control room based at the NATS' headquarters in Swannick, which is over 80 miles away from the airport. Unlike the old tower, the new system will allow controllers expanded functionality such as infrared detection capability for fog scenarios.
Pascall+Watson designed a 36m high open-frame steel tower with a central stair that is clad in gold anodised metal mesh and sits atop a concrete base that contains ancillary facilities such as twin data rooms. The use of a space-frame structure for the tower maximises rigidity to optimise camera performance and was designed to provide minimum pressure resistance to terrorism blast effects and lateral wind loads occurring above the base. To assist with constructing the solid base, we specified an option for twin-wall concrete construction where two precast concrete panels are pre-formed off-site and create permanent shuttering for a cavity pour on-site, thus speeding up construction on site.
We also investigated off-site prefabrication of the 6m² by 36m high lattice steel structure, including its cladding and internal staircase for delivery by barge in 9m high modules. These were craned into place to form the finished tower, minimising risks surrounding working-at-height and the use of mobile access platforms, scaffolding and multiple vehicle deliveries on congested roads.
Pascall+Watson have delivered a critical piece of infrastructure that not only enables this airport's future but also shows the rest of the world's airports how this high-performance technology can be implemented efficiently, safely, aesthetically, and with robustness to manage external threats.
Take a look at London City Airport’s video about the project here: https://youtu.be/MsoxL6tMG_I