Valtra and Nokian Tyres Join Forces in Autonomous Snow Removal Project
Robotic vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers are already reality, but can the same idea be applied to a 7-t machine clearing an airstrip from snow? To show it can, Valtra and Nokian Tyres partnered up with 3 other Finnish companies in March 2019 for a joint proof-of-concept project at the European Union’s northernmost airport. Two Valtra T254 Versu equipped with Nokian Hakkapeliitta TRI tires and each pulling a 4.5 m wide Vammas sweeper blower autonomously cleared the runway at Ivalo airport in Finnish Lapland.
Winters in Finland can be very long, with many parts of the country covered permanently in snow for 150 and up to 200 days a year. ”As an airport operator we need to create summer conditions on Finnish runways even if it’s the middle of the winter. To meet this challenge we are constantly searching for new solutions that support our world-class snow-how,” said Henri Hansson, technical director of Finavia, the organization responsible for maintaining the majority of Finnish airports.
This is how the idea for the project “Runway Snowbot” was born.
“Runway Snowbot is a proof of concept, showing that by combining the know-how of 5 Finnish companies, airport runways can be cleared in a new way – more safely, more sustainably, more economically and more comfortably,” says Matti Tiitinen, senior brand business manager for Valtra.
Tractor specialist Valtra has been working on auto-guided tractors for several years. Together with Nokian Tyres, both brands set the speed record for unmanned snow-plowing in 2018. For the “Runway Snowbot” Valtra SmartTouch features such as auto-guidance with centimetre-level precision, Isobus implement control provided the technology needed for the controlled clearing of predefined routes.
With Nokian Hakkapeliitta TRI tires, the autonomous snow-clearing project has got the grip and accuracy needed for safe driverless tractor operation – while also being gentle to the tarmac.
“Without the driver carrying out instinctive corrections for steering and throttle, the tires must offer very predictable handling”, said Toni Silfverberg, head of sales and marketing, Nokian Heavy Tyres Ltd. “What’s more, the operation without studs, the low rolling resistance of Nokian Hakkapeliitta TRI and our sustainable manufacturing process all add to the overall economy and sustainability.”
Both the Valtra and the Vammas sweeper blower were fuelled with Neste MY renewable diesel which reduces greenhouse gas emissions approximately 90% compared to fossil diesel.
Although not yet quite ready for commercial implementation, the project paves the way for new way of thinking.
“Tractors are an interesting alternative for airport fleets where working widths of 4.5 m 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 during summertime,” commented Tero Santamanner, Finavia machine equipment specialist.
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