Automotive

Autonomous snowplows debut at Norwegian airport

Autonomous snowplows debut at ...
The Yeti autonomous snowplows are designed to act as a team
The Yeti autonomous snowplows are designed to act as a team
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The Yeti is an autonomous snowplow
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The Yeti is an autonomous snowplow
The Yeti autonomous snowplows were unveiled at a Norwegian airport
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The Yeti autonomous snowplows were unveiled at a Norwegian airport
Two Yeti autonomous snowplows clearing a runway
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Two Yeti autonomous snowplows clearing a runway
The Yeti autonomous snowplows are designed to act as a team
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The Yeti autonomous snowplows are designed to act as a team
Diagram of a Yeti autonomous snowplows system
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Diagram of a Yeti autonomous snowplows system
The Yeti autonomous snowplows can clear 88 acres per hour does not need a human driver
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The Yeti autonomous snowplows can clear 88 acres per hour does not need a human driver
A team of Yeti autonomous snowplows can clear 88 acres per hour
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A team of Yeti autonomous snowplows can clear 88 acres per hour

Keeping airports clear of snow is a surprisingly expensive job intended to minimize even more expensive flight delays. To make the process more efficient, Swedish tech company Semcon is developing the Yeti – an autonomous snowplow that is the first to clear snow from an operating airport. The demonstration took place at Fagernes Airport in Leirin, Norway, 200 km (125 mi) north of Oslo and involved a pair of the self-driving plows working as a team.

Snow is one element that can shut down an airport in short order. The US FAA regards snow in any quantity present on a runway as a hazard, so most airports in snowy latitudes have facilities to remove it as quickly as possible to prevent flight delays.

The problem is that this doesn't just involve a costly investment in plows, but also in trained crews that must be available on a 24-hour basis when snow storms threaten. In very cold regions, these costs are even higher because in subzero temperatures plows that don't have their own heated garages need crews to keep them constantly running so they don't freeze and pack up when needed.

Since airports are carefully planned and controlled environments, clearing snow seems like a logical opportunity for automation. This week, two self-driving Yetis were deployed at Fagernes Airport to demonstrate the current state of the art. Each machine was 20 m (65 ft) long and 5.5 m (18 ft) wide and as a team were able to clear around 670 football fields per hour in a variety of weather conditions.

The Yeti autonomous snowplows were unveiled at a Norwegian airport
The Yeti autonomous snowplows were unveiled at a Norwegian airport

One particular advance is that the Yeti is capable of gang plowing. If a team of plows work separately, all they manage to do is shove the snow from one side of the runway to the other and back again. In gang plowing, the plows line up across the length of the runway in a diagonal pattern. When they start to move, the first plow pushes the snow in front of the second, which pushes it in front of the third, and so on until it's deposited off the tarmac.

"We have designed a control system that sets up digital patterns for autonomous snow clearance at airports," says John Emil Halden, Semcon project manager. "The system can then download these patterns and monitor a number of vehicles that navigate using RTK GPS, an accurate form of position measurement, and communicate using 4G modems."

The video below shows the autonomous Yeti in action.

Source: Semcon

Yeti Snow Technology - Autonomy for the toughest conditions

Keeping airports clear of snow is a surprisingly expensive job intended to minimize even more expensive flight delays. To make the process more efficient, Swedish tech company Semcon is developing the Yeti – an autonomous snowplow that is the first to clear snow from an operating airport. The demonstration took place at Fagernes Airport in Leirin, Norway, 200 km (125 mi) north of Oslo and involved a pair of the self-driving plows working as a team.

Snow is one element that can shut down an airport in short order. The US FAA regards snow in any quantity present on a runway as a hazard, so most airports in snowy latitudes have facilities to remove it as quickly as possible to prevent flight delays.

The problem is that this doesn't just involve a costly investment in plows, but also in trained crews that must be available on a 24-hour basis when snow storms threaten. In very cold regions, these costs are even higher because in subzero temperatures plows that don't have their own heated garages need crews to keep them constantly running so they don't freeze and pack up when needed.

Since airports are carefully planned and controlled environments, clearing snow seems like a logical opportunity for automation. This week, two self-driving Yetis were deployed at Fagernes Airport to demonstrate the current state of the art. Each machine was 20 m (65 ft) long and 5.5 m (18 ft) wide and as a team were able to clear around 670 football fields per hour in a variety of weather conditions.

The Yeti autonomous snowplows were unveiled at a Norwegian airport
The Yeti autonomous snowplows were unveiled at a Norwegian airport

One particular advance is that the Yeti is capable of gang plowing. If a team of plows work separately, all they manage to do is shove the snow from one side of the runway to the other and back again. In gang plowing, the plows line up across the length of the runway in a diagonal pattern. When they start to move, the first plow pushes the snow in front of the second, which pushes it in front of the third, and so on until it's deposited off the tarmac.

"We have designed a control system that sets up digital patterns for autonomous snow clearance at airports," says John Emil Halden, Semcon project manager. "The system can then download these patterns and monitor a number of vehicles that navigate using RTK GPS, an accurate form of position measurement, and communicate using 4G modems."

The video below shows the autonomous Yeti in action.

Source: Semcon

Yeti Snow Technology - Autonomy for the toughest conditions

3 comments
swaan
Now make them electric so they can go charge themselves like lawn mowers do.
Observer101
I have always wondered why airports don't build runways/taxiways, etc with radiant heating? I think that somehow they could develop systems that would be more economical than the expensive vehicles. (Boiler systems and storage tanks that could "keep up" with the demands...)
bullfrog84
Finally a practical application of automated vehicles. People can't even take a driving course and keep that consistent so you need to isolate this until literally everything, including humans, evolves just a bit more.