Five Finnish companies join forces in autonomous snow removal project

Automatic robot vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers are already reality, but can the same idea be applied to airport snow removal? Finavia brought together five Finnish companies, each a specialist in their own field, in a project aiming at finding new ways to clear runways in Nordic climatic conditions.

Finavia is responsible for maintaining 21 airports in Finland and enabling smooth international flight connections through its national airport network.

– As an airport operator we need to be able to create summer conditions on Finnish runways even in the middle of the winter. To meet this challenge, we are constantly searching for new solutions that support our world-class snow-how, says Henri Hansson, Technical Director of Finavia.

The five Finnish companies, Valtra, Nokian Tyres, Vammas (Fortbrand), Neste and Finavia took on the challenge of creating a new concept for optimizing snow removal.

– This unique collaboration was done within a group of Finnish companies – each a specialist in their own field, and each with a deep understanding of Nordic climatic conditions. Together we utilized new technologies and products to meet the requirements of winter maintenance so that in the future, runways could be cleared autonomously and in a more safe, sustainable and economical way at any time of the day, says Hansson.

The concept includes programming optimized runway clearing patterns for a special unmanned, autonomous tractor running on low-carbon biofuel, pulling effective snow clearing equipment and ensuring optimal driving properties with top-notch tires.

The Runway Snowbot experiment was carried out at the European Union’s northernmost airport Ivalo in Finnish Lapland in the winter 2018–2019. The tests proved to be successful for all participating parties. The Runway Snowbot gives a glimpse of what the future will bring for airport snow clearing, and it paves the way for new ways of thinking.

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