Keeping the airports clear of snow is very important to avoid flight delays. Swedish tech company Semcon is working towards this end and is developing the Yeti – an autonomous snowplough, the first to clear snow from an operating airport. The yeti snowploughs were demonstrated at Fagernes Airport in Leirin, Norway and involved a pair of them working together as a team.
Snow can shut down an airport anytime as even the smallest quantity of snow present on the runway is deemed as a hazard. So, most airports invest in technologies to clear the snow as quickly as possible to prevent any delays in the flight plans.
Simply buying a snowplough is not enough. The crew needs to be trained to handle these machines and need to be available on a 24-hour basis. This takes the cost very high to keep the runways clear of snow. As airports are carefully planned and have a controlled environment, they are perfect for automation. Yeti snowploughs bring just that autonomy.
In the demonstration at the Fagernes Airport, the machines were observed to be 20 m long and 5.5 m wide and working as a team, they were able to clear around 670 football fields per hour in different weather conditions. The Yeti snowploughs are capable of gang ploughing. This means that they don’t work separately and compliment each other.
One machine pushes the snow in the path of the second one. The second one does the same in the path of the third and it keeps on going until the snow is pushed 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.”
You can see the autonomous ploughs in action below: