2019 autonomia

The Runway Snobot test saw a pair of Valtra T234 Versu tractors plough the snow off the runway at Ivalo Airport without drivers.

2020 Tractors operated in tests without a driver

By 2020, autonomous tractors had been developed to the point that they could be easily operated without a driver in various tests and demonstrations. It was not just a matter of traditional remote control, as automation also allows tractors to follow a predetermined route and perform the desired tasks. Valtra Guide automated steering, Valtra Connect remote monitoring and the U-Pilot headland management systems are the key technologies that enable tractor work without a driver.

In the Runway Snowbot test, two Valtra T234 Versu tractors were used to plough snow off a runway without drivers already in 2019. The conditions were not easy. Ivalo Airport is the northernmost commercial airport in the EU. In wintertime, the temperature can drop to minus 40 Celsius, over a metre of snow can accumulate, and the dark period without any sun lasts more than a month. Also taking part in the test were snow removal equipment manufacturer Vammas, tyre manufacturer Nokian Tyres, airport operator Finavia and energy company Neste, whose equipment also enabled the tractors to be fuelled automatically.

In autumn 2020, Valtra and 5G operator Elisa organised a presentation to the security authorities at Pirkkala Airport, where luggage suspected of being dangerous was safely transferred from the terminal to the parking lot by remote control tractor. The remote control was achieved through a roof-mounted 360-degree camera, an integrated 5G connection and a remote tractor cab. Perhaps most interestingly, any new Valtra tractor is suitable for remote control. Attaching the camera and modem that fit in a briefcase to any tractor basically takes less than half an hour, after which the tractor can be remotely controlled even from hundreds of kilometres away. The remote cab has normal tractor controls, and the remote driver wears a virtual reality headset that make it possible to examine the tractor’s surroundings simply by turning their head.

In March 2018, Valtra and Nokian Tyres set a new world record for ploughing snow with an autonomous tractor, achieving a top speed of 73 km/h on a closed road. This was a truly impressive speed, but still well short of the world speed record for a tractor set by Valtra and Nokian Tyres in 2015 of 130 km/h.

A remote control tractor

At Pirkkala Airport, a remote control tractor demonstrated how dangerous luggage could be removed from the terminal and transported further away to be disposed of safely.

A remote driver operates the radio control tractor using a virtual readily headset

A remote driver operates the radio control tractor using a virtual readily headset and standard tractor controls in a remote cab. The tractor can be operated from even hundreds of kilometres away, and the driver can examine the tractor’s surroundings simply by turning their head.