We all know the iRobot Roomba and the various other versions manufactured by other vacuum companies. Some even now have gone on to include mopping robots and multi-use robots that vacuum and mop at the same time depending on the floor surface they detect.
Well, this area of household chore innovation has spread to many homeowners' weekly summer annoyance—mowing your lawn.
A landscaping company, Rennan Drobnick Landscape and Snow based in Duluth, Minnesota, has been testing robotic lawn mowers for the past two years and is finally ready to release them on the market this month.
Developed by Swedish manufacturer Husqvarna—a specialist in all types of chainsaws, axes, and PPE—the automatic lawn mowers are designed to be virtually quiet due to their cutting blades which are "much more efficient and smaller," says Atle Rennan, General Manager of the company. “If you’ve got a big turbine spinning, that makes a lot of noise, but that [auto lawn mower] just uses little razor blades.”
The robo-mowers weigh around 20 lb. and cost about $2,000, moving at 1 to 2 mph depending on the model, and can cover anywhere from 0.4 to 26 acres of land. Now I don't know how fast my husband walks up and down the yard when mowing the lawn, so I'm not entirely sure if that speed is standard or not.
How It Works
These robot mowers do have similar operating procedures as vacuum robots, but also slightly different. A house is an enclosed space that can be easily mapped due to walls stopping the robot, helping them identify the entirety of the structure and interior rooms. However, when you're outside, there's not usually a barrier in people's yards unless you have a fully enclosed fence or your surrounding neighbors have a fully enclosed fence.
So what they do is, the landscaping company will bury a copper wire in a client’s lawn, similar to an invisible dog fence, to help guide the robot within the wire’s radius.
They have built-in bump sensors and two swiveling drive wheels to ensure that if the mower brushes against a planted object, it will stop and change direction without harming your garden beds or destroying itself trying to drive through a tree and/or getting mulch everywhere.
According to Rennan, there are 3, 1-in. carbon-steel blades mounted on a disc system located in the center, about 4 to 5 in. from the outer edge of the mower, making these mowers much safer than traditional gas-powered units. “You could stick your fingers under there, and it would bump you and turn around. There would be no injury,” says Mitch Drobnick, co-owner of the Rennan Drobnick Landscape and Snow.
GPS trackers are installed in the robots and when a 20% battery life is detected, the unit will find its guide wire and return to its charging port to plug itself in. Users can set a mowing schedule via a smartphone app, Rennan said. When concerns were raised about the app or the mower being able to be hacked, he responded "Unless they have a quantum computer, they'd have a hard time hacking into Husqvarna software."
An additional feature lets Husqvarna communicate with the mowers if a thunderstorm or frost is forecast, which will instruct the mowers to park themselves until its clear to resume.
The company offers a rate of $100 to $200 monthly fee based on the client's lawn size. While the mowers are built to last 10 years, this rate helps the company take care of any maintenance, replacing blades, bearings or motors.
Helping the Environment
Rennan and Drobnick say they believe in this technology because it’s cleaner than traditional gas mowers, there’s no noise pollution, and it eliminates a chore for their clients.
In Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood, their client Jim Geidner lives on a corner lot with “a pretty dramatic slope” that he watches the device easily navigate. “It keeps the grass short. It goes out and nibbles like a rabbit,” he said.
It’s Geidner’s second summer with the unit that he pays about $100 a month to use, and he says it's worth every penny. The 57-year-old suffered a back injury eight years ago, followed up by nerve surgery. After struggling to find consistent help with three lawn services, Geidner, who has used a robot vacuum cleaner for years, was willing to try the auto mower.
He likes that the unit is quiet, environmentally friendly, and he said adding it didn’t affect his electricity bill. So far, the only issues have been his fault, like that time the mower bumped into a droopy hammock and turned itself off. “It’s run over the garden hose 100 times and doesn’t damage it at all—much different than if you did that with your lawn mower, which I have,” he recalled.
Rennan and Dobrick Landscaping and Snow aren't the only ones using these Husqvarna robot mowers. Companies in West Palm, Flordia are also getting on the bandwagon. I expect we'll start to hear a lot more about these in the coming year.
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Created by the editors of New Equipment Digest and Plant Services, Fun Innovations Friday is a feel-good blog that showcases how advances in science, math, engineering, and technology are making our world more whimsical. Here’s another post that is guaranteed to brighten your day.
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