An autonomous tractor, developed to keep runway edge lights clear of snow, has been tested for the first time at Örnsköldsvik Airport.
The Lundberg 6250 from Semcon is being developed as part of the AVAP (Autonomous Vehicles for AirPorts) research project. A collaboration, the intention of which is to demonstrate how vehicle automation can safely help to reduce costs and make airport operation more efficient. The long-term aim will be to enable small airports to remain open and reduce flight delays.
The collaborators in the research project also include the Swedish Air Navigation Services Provider LFV, OER, RISE, Mid Sweden University, Swedavia, Husqvarna, Combitech and FlyPulse.
“Our part of the project involves developing an autonomous tractor designed to keep runway edge lights clear of snow. This may not seem like much, but the runway gets closed down if 15% of the lights are non-operational, and this causes significant delays and costs. But more seriously, this presents major safety risks as well,” explained Anne Piegsa, technical project manager at Semcon.
The 6 tonne, 2.4m tall, 5m long tractor uses sensors for scanning the environment plus a computer for intelligent control and management of commands received. The operator can task it with ploughing via 4G and it can then calculate how to complete the task, constantly communicating its position and status. Air traffic controllers can also monitor and communicate with the vehicle.
“One of the problems with clearing snow around runway edge lights is that a great deal of precision is required on surfaces that are not always smooth. This is time-consuming work that can be streamlined by means of our autonomous solution. This will also free up staff capacity, allowing them to work on other safety-related tasks that are not suitable for automation,” said Piegsa.