Swedish company testing autonomous airport snow-removal equipment
Leading the Automated Vehicles for Airports (AVAP) research consortium, Swedish company LFV has begun testing autonomous snow removal equipment. The AVAP research looks to automate snow removal and related services, along with other areas as the research grows.
Currently, the group is testing automated runway-light scrubbers, which remove snow from runway lights for better visibility. This is an operation currently done largely by hand at most airports, putting personnel and equipment at risk in the worst of weather. LFV hopes that automating the process will make it safer and faster, leading to fewer runway shutdowns and more open airports in the winter.
The scrubbers are attached to a Lundberg 6250 tractor, which weighs in at just over 6 tonnes (13,228 lb, sans the attachment). Sensors for scanning the environment have been added, along with computerized controls that allow for autonomous operation. The machine is connected to support staff and air traffic controllers via 4G network, continually sending its location and status as it operates.
The AVAP group demonstrated the automated scrubbers at Sweden's Ornskoldsvik Airport. Alongside automated grass cutters, snow removal equipment, and runway monitors, the group is nearing a full suite of automated runway care machines. The goal is to increase flight availability, make operations at smaller airports more cost-effective, and increase Sweden’s role in innovation.
Automated snow removal equipment is not a new idea. In 2017, Daimler unveiled automated snowplows at a German airport as part of larger overall research into automation for commercial vehicles. And in 2018, a Norwegian company demonstrated automated snowplows at Fagernes Airport.