Autonomous airport snow clearing –
from vision to a proof of concept

Finland is known for keeping its airports up and running in almost any weather. But anything can be done more safely, sustainably and economically. Enter the Snowbot – the concept of autonomous snow clearing for Northern airports.


Automatic robot vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers are already reality, but scaling the idea to airport snow clearing? Sounds almost like science fiction: program the optimized runway clearing patterns to a special unmanned, autonomous tractor running on low-carbon biofuel, pulling an effective snow clearing equipment and ensuring its driving properties with top-notch tires. But it can be done – as a joint venture between five Finnish specialist companies.


Picture this: It’s dead at night at Ivalo, Finland — the northernmost airport in the whole European Union. The airport is running on a skeleton crew, but when the snow starts to fall, the autonomous tractor comes to life. With optimized, predefined waylines, the perimeter-sensing robot tractor makes sure the runway is safe for the next plane to land. If the tractor is running low on fuel, it can refill itself with low-emission renewable diesel. What does it take to make the vision reality?

Man marshaling an airplane on Finavia-operated Ivalo airport

Finavia brought the technologies together, bringing their snow-how to the mix. Responsible for keeping the Finnish airports operational in any weather, Finavia is always looking for new, safe and innovative ways to optimize their work in a sustainable way. Finavia operates 21 airports – all of them striving to become carbon neutral in 2019. Finavia has made science out of snow plowing, knowing the field inside out.

Two snow-plowing Valtra tractors

Valtra has been working on autonomous tractors for years, focusing on improving the work safety and efficiency with intelligent guidance systems. They also want to demonstrate the versatility of a modern tractor, factory-tailored for the application. Features such as high uptime, low total cost of ownership, easy service and Valtra Connect service for remote fleet management make their models very suitable for the project.

Tractor being refueled with Neste MY renewable diesel fuel by Autofuel robot system

Neste is the world’s largest producer of renewable fuels. Neste MY Renewable Diesel with approximately 90% less CO2 emissions was perfect for the project, showing that diesel engines can help moving towards carbon neutrality. With the aim to develop future solutions already today, Neste has also been experimenting robotized refueling that can automatize yet another maintenance aspect.

Valtra tractor plowing snow with Nokian TRI 2 winter tires by Nokian Tyres

Nokian Tyres specializes in creating tires made for extreme conditions – be it dense forests, deep mines or, in this case, arctic airports. Their Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta TRI tractor tires offered the grip and control needed for the application – without studs, making the tractor more tarmac-friendly.

Fortbrand – Vammas snow clearing trailer

Fortbrand Services is the exclusive worldwide distributor for a wide range of unique airport snow removal and maintenance equipment, including the Vammas line of runway snow removal vehicles. Because their equipment is multi-functional or multi-seasonal in nature, they allow the airport operators to utilize their limited financial and human resources more efficiently.


The Snowbot experiment is a successful proof of concept, giving a glimpse of what the future will bring for snow clearing. The commercial applications of the concept are still a little way ahead, but all the makings of an autonomous snow plowing tractor are already there. If you want to know more, contact the people behind the project below and get in touch with tomorrow!


Heidi Peltonen
Marketing & Services
+358 50 458 4234


Nokian Heavy Tyres Marketing
Contact us


Markku Hiiri
Sales and Technical Support
Vitera Oy - Vammas
+358 10 3246 121