Saab has revealed potential plans to integrated a Counter-Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS) capability into its Remote Tower System which allows a single operations centre to control multiple airheads off-site, company officials have revealed to MT.
Speaking to the media ahead of the Farnborough International Air Show in the UK, which takes place between 11-15 July, company officials described how Saab would be publicly demonstrating its Remote Tower capability for the first time.
In its current iteration, the Remote Tower System is capable of detecting and identifying multiple UAS measuring less than a single metre in diameter, at a range out to 3km and beyond. However, the concept currently lacks the capability to deter, disrupt or neutralise UAS should it be deemed a threat to the airfield itself.
However, Saab officials admitted that “internal discussions” were in the process of being conducted with undisclosed companies in order to assess the necessary “next step” to counter UAS. The Remote Tower System’s current capability relies upon a Ground Surveillance Radar to detect suspect UAS before handing over to a pair of Electro-Optical/InfraRed Pan/Tilt/Zoom cameras capable of identifying any threat and tracking it.
Such C-UAS technology continues to spread across the defence, security and civil markets as the proliferation of affordable and agile micro-, mini- and small-UAS continues to drive the market with terrorist organisations continuing to use such systems for battlefield reconnaissance and airborne improvised explosive devices (ABIEDs).
Further technology which could be integrated on board Saab’s Remote Tower System to deter, disrupt and neutralise threatening UAS would likely include Radio Frequency (RF) technology which features heavily in other C-UAS solutions.
For example, the Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) features Blighter Surveillance Systems’ radar technology; Chess Dynamics EO/IR cameras; and Enterprise Control Systems’ Directional RF Inhibitors; all of which are integrated into a single C-UAS solution.
Additionally, Leonardo-Finemccanica (the old Selex ES) FALCON SHIELD solution relies upon passive electro-optical and electronic surveillance sensors, combined with scenario specific radar to find and fix UAS with an electronic attack capability providing operators with the ability to disrupt or take control of the threat with the additional option of kinetic effectors.
Since 2015, Saab’s Remote Tower has been operating Örnsköldsvik airport from the Sundsvall-Timrå airport, located 150km from one another. Additionally, Saab officials described that how the Sundsvall-Timrå airport would soon be operating a Remote Tower System later this year with Linköping City Airport also set to benefit from the technology in the first quarter of 2017.
Further afield, the Remote Tower had conducted “environmental trials” with Saab at multiple locations including Alice Springs in Australia; Værøy Heliport, Norway; Leesburg Executive Airport, Virginia; Cork and Shannon Airports; and Schipol in the Netherlands.
Saab’s Remote Tower solution comprises a total of 14 camera systems covering day colour and low light IR cameras; PTZ cameras; Laser Rangefinders; Signal Light Gun; and Gap Filler Camera.
Field of Views can be tailored dependent upon customer preference with varieties ranging from 220-degrees to 360-degrees in panoramic angle and 45-degrees to 180-degrees in the vertical. Information can be displayed on 14 integrated screens in a Controller Working Position (CWP), although Saab officials explained the system had yet to be operationally approved in Sweden.
Additionally, sources explained how a single CWP provided a capability to connect and control three separate airports simultaneously.
According to Saab, the technology could be used for oil and gas platforms (for control of rotary wing aircraft); small airports; regional and local airports; as well as a contingency plan for larger international airports.
Finally, Remote Tower technology has also been integrated on board ground vehicles for military expeditionary operations such as C-130 Temporary Landing Zones (TLZs). Saab officials explained: “You can have an air base up and running very quickly and a lot of Air Forces are now starting to look into this option,” it was added with an additional demonstration scheduled to highlight the technology at Farnborough later this year.
Company literature describes how “Air Navigation Service Providers, airport owners and operators, and related stakeholders are facing growing pressure to reduce their operating costs for air traffic services (ATS) services while maintaining safety and efficiency.
“The Saab Remote Tower system is an integrated package of subsystems which facilitates the provision of a range of conventional ATS. High definition images and all relevant airport systems are transferred via a data network to an integrated controller working position at the Remote Tower Centre (RTC) that best suits the customer’s business model. A comprehensive suite of image enhancement tools and state of the art video compression provides optimal image resolution whilst minimising bandwidth usage.”