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Swedish research project advances future airport technology for airport safety

24 Apr 2024

A three-year research project at Mittuniversitetet in Sweden has made several advances to create the airport of the future with safe and cost-effective solutions.   

Within the project, among other things, a self-driving quadricycle has been developed to measure the surface of the airport's runways. The measurement system used combines laser and camera technology and has been further developed by the project's corporate partner Klimator and adapted to the airport's special conditions and needs. The development of autonomous technology to measure friction on runways is critical to flight safety and an important success of the project.

"The new technology can measure over a larger area, instead of just one measurement point on the runway. The system can also determine whether the surface is dry or wet, consists of snow, slush or ice, which can be very difficult to detect with the naked eye. Together with information about surface friction, the technology provides an important decision-making basis for the airport's staff", says Torbjörn Gustavsson, head of research and development at the company Klimator.

The project has also expanded the safety system DRIWS so that air traffic controllers who are in another location can take part in the information that the system provides.

"This system acts as an invisible fence around the runway where all connected vehicles request permission to enter the runway and an alarm is triggered in the event of an incorrect violation. This means that air traffic controllers can see which vehicles are on the runway even in thick fog and extremely poor visibility", says Erik Bäckman, responsible for the remote air traffic control tower in Sundsvall.

The number of drones in society has exploded in recent years and it has also become a new challenge for airport staff. Therefore, the system has also been developed for the use of drone positioning, which can be valuable in, for example, rescue operations where the technology can be used for the safe take-off and landing of drones at airports and ensure that the drone does not affect air traffic.

"Using drone technology to quickly get an overview of an accident scene provides valuable information so that the rescue service can plan the intervention effectively, save time, save lives and reduce the consequences", says Anders Lundin, production planner at Region Västernorrland.

Thanks to the project, the researchers at Mittuniversitetet have identified several new research challenges for the future. Among other things, they want to investigate whether the camera technology can be further developed to also measure the amount of chemicals on the runway, since chemicals are used for, among other things, anti-slip.

"We also want to investigate whether it is possible to make laser measurements at longer distances, for example from a drone, and how different weather affects the measurement method. We are also starting a new project where we will research sensor technology to measure the amount of chemicals on runways", says Benny Thörnberg, researcher at Mittuniversitetet.

In the project, Mittuniversitetet collaborated with Örnsköldsvik Airport, Klimator, Saab, Luleå Technical University, Combitech, RISE, the Swedish Aviation Administration, Örnsköldsvik municipality and Region Västernorrland. The project was financed with the support of Vinnova. 

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