Colorado Remote Tower Project

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Project Overview

The Colorado Remote Tower Project is a revolutionary high-tech approach toward the future of air traffic control. Traditionally, busy airports have used physical air traffic control towers to safely manage air traffic. The implementation of Remote Air Traffic Technology will eliminate the need for airports to build, maintain, and staff a physical air traffic control tower.  This technology will also give airports with seasonal traffic demands the flexibility to offer air traffic control services only when necessary.  As a result, the Colorado Remote Tower Project will help to make our skies and airports safer, more efficient, while drastically reducing the capital investment and operating costs associated with a conventional air traffic control tower.

Download: 2020 Remote Tower Presentation
2020 RTP Presentation

RTP Logo Icon Project Background

Mountain Radar Project MapColorado is one of the most beautiful and challenging place to fly. With the high plains to the east and the 14,000 foot peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the west, Colorado's diverse topography has challenged pilots since the early days of air travel. Not only did Colorado's high mountainous terrain pose a challenge with adverse weather and reduced aircraft performance, the high peaks and low valleys of Colorado's Rocky Mountains made it impossible for air traffic controllers to "see" aircraft using traditional radar systems. In some cases, aircraft radar coverage was lost as low as 9,000 feet MSL in some regions of Colorado. In an effort to overcome this challenge, the Colorado Division of Aeronautics partnered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the development and implementation of the Colorado Mountain Radar Project.  

The result of this two-phased project now allows air traffic controllers to monitor air traffic at Colorado's busiest ski country airports including the Craig-Moffat County Airport, Hayden-Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Steamboat Springs Airport, Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, Rifle-Garfield County Regional Airport, Montrose Regional Airport, Durango-La Plata County Airport, and the Telluride Regional Airport. Because of this, many of Colorado's busiest mountain airports are now able to safely accommodate higher seasonal air traffic volumes and reduce aircraft diversions due to adverse weather conditions. This has ultimately increased the level of safety and efficiency at these airports, while also positively influencing the economic development of the surrounding communities.

The Colorado Remote Tower Project is essentially the third phase of this project and meshes satellite-based technology developed for the Mountain Radar Project with ground-based video technology to give air traffic controllers a comprehensive view of air traffic on the surface of an airport, and in the surrounding airspace.

In 2015, a site selection process was conducted to determine a suitable location to test and assess Remote Air Traffic Control Technology. Based on several factors including air traffic mix, aircraft operational levels, proximity to a major airport, and local support, it was determined that the Northern Colorado Regional Airport (FNL) would be the official test facility for the Colorado Remote Tower Project. In July of 2017, following significant efforts to develop the project requirements and scope, the FAA selected Searidge Technologies to design, install, test, and certify the remote tower equipment being tested at FNL.

Airport Icon The Need for Air Traffic Control in Colorado

Colorado Population GrowthColorado continues to experience exponential population growth, especially along the front range corridor north and south of the Denver metropolitan area. With this, comes an increased demand for air service for these areas of the state. Currently, about half of Colorado's commercial service airports do not have air traffic control (ATC) services. Many of these airports serve Colorado's growing seasonal tourism traffic and would be ideal locations to implement the flexibility of part-time air traffic control. 

Colorado Commercial Service Airports Without ATC

  • Alamosa-San Luis Valley Regional (ALS)
  • Durango-La Plata County Regional (DRO)
  • Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional (GUC)
  • Hayden-Yampa Valley Regional (HDN)
  • Telluride Regional (TEX)

RTP Logo Icon Project Goals & Benefits

The Colorado Remote Tower Project is the first of its kind to integrate both satellite and ground-based technologies to help elevate the level of safety, operational efficiency, and economic environment at busy airports with uncontrolled airspace. The overall scope of the Colorado Remote Tower Project falls directly in line with the Mission and Vision Statement followed by the Colorado Division of Aeronautics and the Colorado Aeronautical Board: 

  • Safety Benefits

    • Cost-effective solution to managing potential risk to aircraft operators in a busy airport environment such as Northern Colorado Regional Airport.
    • Addresses issues related to a diverse air traffic mix; big and small, slow, and fast. This technology will allow controllers to safely manage airspace containing a wide variety of aircraft sizes, speeds, and maneuverability. 
    • Ability to have positive control of air traffic during airport incidents, construction projects, and adverse weather conditions.
  • Operational Efficiency Benefits

    • This will allow the airport to safely and efficiently accommodate additional air traffic volumes. 
    • Increases air traffic efficiency during airport incidents, construction projects, and adverse weather conditions.
  • Economic Benefits

    • The Remote Tower Project will facilitate future commercial air service at FNL, generating positive economic benefits for the State of Colorado and the community surrounding the airport, while broadening consumer choice in air transportation.
    • Increased air traffic volumes can be directly related to an increase in visitors traveling to the local community for business and/or pleasure.
    • At the airport: an increase in aircraft operations at an airport is directly related to increases in fuel sales, aircraft maintenance, airport services; hangar rental, catering, ground transportation, etc.
    • In the community: increased air traffic volumes can be directly related to elevated visitor spending; lodging, food, entertainment, etc.