Autonomous snow removal project

Valtra and Nokian Tyres partnered up with three other Finnish companies last winter for a joint autonomous snow clearing project at the EU’s most northerly located airport.

by Steven Vale

16 May 2019

Known as the Runway Snowbot project, two Valtra T254 Versus each pulled a 4.5m wide Vammas sweeper blower autonomously to clear the runway at Ivalo airport in Finnish Lapland.

Valtra SmartTouch features such as auto-guidance with centimetre-level precision and ISObus implement control provided the technology needed for the controlled clearing of pre-defined routes. Both tractors were booted with Nokian Hakkapeliitta TRI winter tyres and fuelled with Neste MY renewable diesel.

“As an airport operator we need to create summer conditions on Finnish runways even if it’s the middle of the winter,” said technical director Henri Hansson of Finavia, the organisation responsible for maintaining the majority of Finnish airports. “To meet this challenge we are constantly searching for new solutions.”

The results from the latest project were successful for all participating parties, and while it is not yet quite ready for commercial implementation, the partners reckon that it paves the way for new way of thinking.

Tractors are viewed as an interesting alternative for airport fleets where working widths of 4.5m are sufficient. “Tractors are considerably less expensive in total cost of ownership than trucks and much more versatile as they can be used for other tasks such as snow-blowing or mowing during the summer,” said Finavia machine equipment specialist Tero Santamanner.

Valtra has been working on auto-guided tractors for several years. Together with Nokian Tyres, both brands set the speed record for unmanned snow-ploughing in 2018 with an autonomous T254 Versu equipped with the same Nokian winter tyres.