HarrisonKornberg was commissioned by United Airlines to design the first-of-its-kind Virtual Ramp Control Towers (vRCT) and command center at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston (IAH). Using innovative technology, the virtualization of the ramp control tower pioneers an enhanced and real time view of the airport’s -ramp movement without the use of the traditional ramp control tower.

The Command Center located inside Terminal E houses two arrays of high-resolution display screens giving ramp controllers a real-time view of the airfield. These innovations allow United Airlines to manage airplane ramp movement more efficiently, saving passengers time by guiding planes in and out of their gates faster.

This project included the design of two steel towers to support 360-degree camera arrays: one north of the airport at 95’ tall; and one south airport at 72’ tall. Third-party mechanical systems maintain the tower-mounted arrays at appropriate temperature and humidity levels. The project also required electrical and IT support for 13 pan tilt zoom (PTZ) third-party cameras and 5 relocated Station Operations Center (SOC) cameras. These cameras help assist the ramp controllers with visibility of plane movement in areas in shadow.

The Command Center includes two display screen arcs, with two controller positions per arc, that show a 360-degree view of IAH’s apron including the taxiways, runways and gates. Each arc is supported by its own IDF room, and redundant emergency power system. Third party IT integration into the controller positions includes an Aerobond system, radio ground controls, and aircraft scheduler. The command center also houses a training room with a controller simulation station, manager’s office, lockers, flex space and a break room.

Due to IAH’s expansion, radio communications for the entire airport needed to be relocated. Our team also designed a new radio room in Terminal C’s Parking Garage to serve as an extension of the United IT network, house antennas and supplemental cameras, and accommodate an antenna farm.

Saab provided all required technology and related consulting on this project. Saab’s Digital Ramp Control solution delivers increased traffic efficiencies, streamlined communications between key stakeholders, and significant cost savings to both airlines and airports.

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Virtual Ramp Control Tower and Command Center