A yearslong project to test and evaluate a remote ATC tower at Northern Colorado Regional Airport (KFNL) in Loveland has been cut short, for now, the Colorado Department of Transportation said.
Since 2015, CDOT’s Division of Aeronautics has been working with the airport and FAA to bring remote towers to the state’s airports and has used KFNL as a test case. Under the system, controllers use arrays of video cameras and other sensing equipment to conduct ATC operations at a lower cost compared with traditional control towers.
In 2020, Canadian company Searidge Technologies provided a mobile air traffic control tower at the airport as a step toward testing and eventually certified a permanent remote tower. Recently, though, following a number of difficulties ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to changing FAA certification standards, Searidge notified the FAA that it would halt work on the tower program.
State transportation officials said the airport, which was nontowered prior to the start of the remote program, will continue to operate with its current mobile remote tower while the state, airport, and FAA decide on how to proceed. Options include continued development of the remote tower system or a traditional air traffic control tower.
“While we are disappointed to see Searidge leave the remote tower program, we remain optimistic that the cost-effective benefits of remote tower technology will have tremendous value to Colorado’s future aviation system, and we intend to vigorously support future development of the technology,” said David Ulane, the CDOT’s aeronautics director.
Airport officials said there is “significant interest” among other potential suppliers of remote tower technology to continue development of KFNL’s planned remote systems. They said they plan to work with the FAA to possibly reach an agreement with such a supplier.
“The remote tower has already provided an exceptional, innovative pathway to meet the operational demands of our growing airport in a safe, cost-effective, and timely way,” said David Ruppel, Northern Colorado Regional Airport’s interim director. “While this news is unfortunate, we are confident that with the FAA’s ongoing support, CDOT’s commitment to this project and our airport, as well as interest from other highly qualified vendors, we will be able to carry this effort forward.”
Searidge did not respond to a request for comment.