Automotive technology specialist Semcon has announced that the autonomous tractor it is developing has been tested for the first time at Örnsköldsvik Airport in Sweden.
The purpose of the tractor is to keep runway edge lights clear of snow and its development is part of a research project exploring new maintenance technology at airports.
“Our part of the project involves developing an autonomous tractor designed to keep runway edge lights clear of snow,” said Anne Piegsa, technical project manager at Semcon.
“This may not seem like much, but the runway gets closed down if 15 per cent of the lights are non-operational, and this causes significant delays and costs. But more seriously, this presents major safety risks as well.”
The AVAP (Autonomous Vehicles for AirPorts) research project is a joint venture between Semcon, the Swedish Air Navigation Services Provider LFV, Mid Sweden University and various other collaborators.
The project is also looking at monitoring solutions using drones, automatic mowing and friction measurement systems, which have now been demonstrated together at Örnsköldsvik Airport (OER).
“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,” said Piegsa.
“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.”