Meet Otto: Winnipeg Airport Utilizing First Autonomous Snowplow in North America

Meet Otto: Winnipeg Airport Utilizing First Autonomous Snowplow in North America

Autonomous Snowplow
Otto, North America’s first autonomous snowplow, operates at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (CHRISD.CA)

WINNIPEG — They call it “Otto” and it’s leading the way to ensure runways at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport remain clear of snow.

The made-in-Manitoba technology is behind North America’s first autonomous snowplow, which the airport has been piloting since the fall. On Thursday, it was ready for its big reveal to see it in action.

The vehicle operates in low-risk areas of the airport as mapped out on pre-determined routes using an iPad. The operator punches in the routes to send a signal to the vehicle, which then takes off unmanned to complete a task. Otto is equipped with 3D lidar and radar that can sense its surroundings and detect obstacles. A further safety enhancement involves tolerant wireless emergency stop system.

“Autonomous technology is changing how we work,” said Shawn Schaerer, president and founder of Northstar Robotics. “It is exciting to partner with companies that are ready to adapt and pioneer in this cutting-edge technology.”

Otto is the combined work of Manitoba companies Northstar Robotics and Airport Technologies Inc., which are working with Winnipeg Airports Authority to lead the way and further expand its technology.

Research and development are ongoing and the next step is to have the plow in other designated areas of the airport’s runway system to help with snow removal in the winter.

“Our success is a direct result of bringing together partners who are committed to lead transportation innovation and growth,” added Barry Rempel, president and CEO of WAA.

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