Design Challenge - November 2013

Jon Pope - The Mighty Thor

Jouko PolojärviSnow removal has always been an issue at airports. You can only pile up so much snow before you run out of space or cause visibility issues for taxiing planes and GSE.

Trucking it off-site can send fuel costs soaring. More importantly, it’s also becoming illegal because much of the snow removed from airports is saturated with de-icing chemicals. So dumping it into rivers and ponds, like a lot of municipal authorities do with their overburdened snow piles, is no longer acceptable for airports. Too much serious and costly environmental damage could be caused with this practice.

So a lot of airports are using snow-melting machines, melting the snow so that the water drains right into the airport drains, where the contaminated water will be properly treated. But even though these units are mobile, they still have to be centrally located. So the snow has to be loaded onto dump trucks, driven to the snow-melting machines, dumped, and then loaded into the snow-melting machine. It takes a lot of extra time, fuel, equipment operators and more equipment to maintain.

My solution to make this system more efficient is a snow blower that instead picks up the snow, melts it, and carries it in an onboard reservoir in the form of water. The truck has an auger to pick up the snow like a traditional snow blower. A second-stage auger removes the snow from the main auger. The chassis is a large closed box frame, with a set of augers running along the entire length of the machine inside the chassis. The chassis is heated up with electric coils that completely melt the snow by the time it reaches the back of the machine. The water is then pumped into a large reservoir.

To make the system more efficient, when the machine is picking up snow, the engine cooling system (and exhaust) bypasses the radiator and runs the entire length of the chassis to help melt the snow.  When the reservoir tank is full, there are drain tubes in the rear of the machine that allow the operator to empty the contaminated melted snow water into the airport drains, where it will be properly contained and treated.

A GPS system helps the Mighty Thor locate storm drains buried in snow to simplify emptying of the reservoir.
Average snowfall has a 10:1 ratio with water, while dry snow can consist of up to 30in of snow to every inch of water. Snow can dry out when being blown over large open areas, like airports. The onboard reservoir that holds the melted snow water can hold from 10 to 30 20-yard dump trucks full of snow before it has to be emptied (all depending on the type of snow being removed).

For long stretches such as runways, a tandem bogie and tanker trailer could be added for extra reservoir capacity. This machine could also be used for markets outside of the airport sector, such as local authorities removing snow on public roads.

Instead of having a diesel engine driving a hydrostatic pump, a generator and a mechanical drive, the entire system is diesel-electric. Traction motors in each wheel assembly eliminate the need for differential axles, making more room for the closed box chassis.

This also eliminates the entire mechanical drive system. The pickup auger is raised and lowered by electric actuators, and the snow melting process uses electric heating coils. The machine has all-wheel steering for better manoeuvrability, with crab steering and rear wheel steering-only functions, all controlled by a joystick.

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Pope Design

Jon Pope has designed heavy equipment for more than 15 years. He has worked for a variety of off-highway OEMs, as an independent design consultant or employed by Teague.





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