Kingston selected as site of new NAV CANADA digital facility

Kingston Airport. Photo by Lucas Mulder/Kingstonist.

Kingston has been selected as the site for a digital facility run by NAV CANADA under its multi-year Digital Aerodrome Air Traffic Services (DAATS) program.

“In place of a traditional out-the-window view from flight service stations and air traffic control towers, digital facilities will use high-resolution optical sensors, external microphones, and other sensors to capture what is happening at an airport,” the company said in a media release dated Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

“The City of Kingston is excited to be invited to participate in NAV CANADA’s new digital facility program and we look forward to working together to introduce this advanced technology at Kingston Airport,” said Bryan Paterson, Mayor of Kingston. “We believe this collaboration will bring benefits to the aviation community across Canada and Kingston in particular.”

NAV CANADA is a private, not-for-profit company, established in 1996, which provides air traffic control, airport advisory services, weather briefings and aeronautical information services for more than 18 million square kilometres of Canadian domestic and international airspace.

According to the release, the company is internationally recognized for its safety record and technology innovation. Air traffic management systems developed by NAV CANADA are used by air navigation service providers in countries worldwide.

The company said that the live video and data feed, transmitted through secure, reliable networks, will “provide a visual presentation of airport activity on a set of large video screens at the digital facility for use by air traffic service personnel in the provision of safe and efficient services.”

This digital facility serving the local Kingston Airport will be used to refine and evaluate technology and operating procedures, according to the release. This work will reportedly provide a foundation for the creation of a potential digital hub in Kingston that would provide air traffic services to airports in other communities starting in four to six years.

“Digital facilities provide an opportunity to reimagine how we deliver service, and where we deliver it from, allowing NAV CANADA to respond effectively and efficiently to changes in airport traffic demand,” said Mark Cooper, Vice President and Chief Technology and Information Officer. “NAV CANADA will leverage technology to continue to provide safe and efficient service levels, increasing resiliency and supporting the aviation industry’s sustainability recovery targets.”

The transition to a digital capability opens new opportunities to incorporate new functionality, the company stated, such as infrared video that increases situational awareness in low visibility conditions and onscreen data tags containing flight information.

According to the release, the modern digital hubs will be designed for flexibility, ease of maintenance, and enhanced contingency while enhancing NAV CANADA’s employee experience and driving common processes, procedures, technology and training.

The company noted that by late 2022 there were more than 65 airports in more than 30 countries that have digital facilities in operation, under development or in feasibility studies, out of which 16 airports are already operational and handling day-to-day air traffic.

NAV CANADA said that the DAATS program is one of their strategic direction initiatives being implemented to enhance safety, improve services to customers and drive long-term resiliency and sustainability.

One thought on “Kingston selected as site of new NAV CANADA digital facility

  • This story fails to indicate whether the digital sensors are a supplement to the direct visual and auditory observations of flight service specialists at the tower in Kingston or replacements to the presence of observers atop the tower. Air traffic controllers operating IFR control services may be located in radar rooms, with no view of the airport. Kingston’s airport uses Visual Flight Rules (VFR), and flight service specialists have needed a view of the sky and airport runways. Now, NAV Canada is putting them elsewhere, and they will get their information only from external sensors. They will only looking at a computer screen, (not out the window). Radar and radio detection are great for major airports and routing aircraft in controlled IFR airspace; but, in VFR airspace, (where aircraft may not be equipped with radar and IFR equipment), this experiment could be extremely dangerous. Pilots would not have any eyes watching the sky, (just someone watching views on the computer monitor), for other aircraft in the area, the line-up at the flight paths, and potential hazards, (such as flocks of birds and lightning strikes). What next? Replace the FSS personnel with Artificial Intelligence for decisions on take-offs, landings, and routing of VFR traffic?

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