ROS Based Fully Autonomous Airport Snow Plow

I am super excited to share with the ROS community our ROS based fully autonomous airport snow plow. This is the first autonomous snow plow operating at an Airport in North America.

It’s been named “Otto” (not to be confused with OTTO Motors) by the technical staff at the airport and I think its a great name for an autonomous vehicle.

We are long time ROS developers and I thank the community as a whole for making ROS the platform of choice for companies like ours. Using ROS has enabled us to concentrate on what matters most to our business and has saved us countless years of development time.

If anyone is interested in seeing a video of the plow operating can check out this link. Full article:

It would be great to get feedback from other groups using ROS in heavy vehicles like the ones we are automating.

Shawn Schaerer
Northstar Robotics


Hi Shawn!

Thanks for sharing!

Love the project and will share it forward at Weekly Robotics (!

Couple of questions:

  • Do you use a standard GPS or an RTK?
  • Are there any particular packages that you think saved you a considerable amount of time?
  • Do you need any certification to operate at the airports?

I’ll be looking forward to follow this project!

Thanks for the support!

  • We do use RTK GPS.
  • In terms of packages, I don’t think there was one in particular, but all of the drivers and ROS infrastructure were the big help. RQT and RVIZ are two tools we use the most.
  • Yes, we have a certification process with the airport and we need to work worth Transport Canada on operation of the plow. Autonomy is so new that most governments have not caught up to what is going on yet.

Hey Shawn, fantastic stuff mate.

Looks like you made some great progress specifically with using ROS with outdoors heavy machinery. I understand some of those challenge quite well. I work for a company called Universal Field Robots ( , developing autonomous field robots based on existing outdoor machinery, and similarly we are using ROS to power these beasts. We have currently focused on excavators in particular.

Keep up the good work, look forward to see where this project goes!

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