Autonomous Snowplows Debut at Norwegian Airport

These powder-clearing beasts aim to reduce delays.

Swedish tech manufacturer Semcon revealed an autonomous snowplow at Fagernes Airport in Leirin, Norway. The self-driving vehicle's purpose is to reduce air traffic delays during wintery conditions. The company’s demonstration included two self-driving plows working in tandem at the airbase just 125 miles north of Oslo earlier this week.

“We have designed a control system that sets up digital patterns for autonomous snow clearance at airports. 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,” stated John Emil Halden, Semcon project manager.

Coming in at 65 feet long and 18 feet wide, the plows were developed by Yeti Snow Technology, co-owned by Semcon and Øveraasen, for Norwegian airport operator Avinor. The plows have the capacity to clear 3,850,250 square-feet in just one hour. And a point of interest about the plows, they have the ability to clear snow in formation. That is, several units working together with fantastic precision despite the severity of the weather conditions.  

“Autonomous snow plows will allow airports all over the world to streamline their activities and reduce delays for their passengers. This is a good example of how autonomous vehicles can increase profitability and add value for people,” says Markus Granlund, CEO at Semcon. 

Obviously, clearing snow is crucial for airport safety and air traffic efficiency. Runways must be entirely devoid of snow for flights to depart and land on time. And while airports have plow staff on-call and at-the-ready should snow conditions arise, autonomous plows could be a serious game changer for the aviation industry and a welcome change for anyone who has arrived at the airport to read the dismal words on the display screen, “flight delayed.”