Lawn-care in an age of robots
By Shannon Bentley
Now I can check one thing off my "to do" list. I don't have to worry about mowing the lawn anymore. The Robomower can take care of it for me.
You've gotta love summertime... pool parties and backyard BBQ's! But they can be a lot of work and take a lot of time to plan. Well, now I can check one thing off my "to do" list. I don't have to worry about mowing the lawn anymore. The Robomower can take care of it for me. The Robomower is a fully automatic, battery-powered lawn mower that will mow your lawn at the touch of a button. It can handle almost any lawn that a traditional gas walk-behind mower can handle. You just have to set it up first. In order to keep your Robomower on your lawn (and off your neighbour's), you will have to outline your yard with a wire. This wire forms the virtual fence for the Robomower, similar to the technology used in invisible pet fencing systems. Setting up the perimeter wire is the most difficult part. It takes about an hour and a half to two hours to prepare the lawn, but you only have to do it once. The wire can be pegged to the ground below the grass level, or if you're really ambitious you can bury it just under the surface. The wires can stay put all year long, even through the cold winter weather. Once you've got your lawn all wired up, all you will have to do each time you want to cut the grass is drive the mower onto the lawn using the manual controller, and press the "Go" button. Here's how it works: the perimeter wire forms a loop around the outside of your yard and a control box sends a low voltage signal through it. The Robomower will not operate outside the signal loop. It's programmed to turn around and go in another direction when it hits the perimeter. The Robomower also uses an on-board navigation system that is constantly measuring the dimensions of the lawn, where it has hit the perimeter wire, and the distance it has traveled to make sure it covers the whole yard. The robot can mow a lawn the size of a tennis court in about 2 to 2.5 hours. It takes about 2 to 3 times longer compared to a traditional walk-behind mower...but if you aren't doing the work, what does it matter? The Robomower is powered by a rechargeable battery pack, so there's no need to worry about noise. You can mow day or night without disturbing the neighbours. It also means there's no environmental pollution each time you mow - no gas being burned and no oil being used. Depending on the type of grass and how long it is, the battery should last you up to 4 hours per charge. To help extend the battery life, you can adjust the cut height to 6 different levels. Recharging the battery takes a good 24 hours...unless you shell out extra cash for a rapid charger that will do it in 6 hours. Trees and any other solid obstacles like chairs are not a problem. The front and rear bumpers are equipped with low force sensors so the mower simply bumps into them and changes direction. Other obstacles, like flower beds and pools, have to be excluded from the mowing area using the perimeter wire. The Robomower is pretty safe. There's a child lock, bumper sensors, and a drop off mechanism automatically stops the blades if the front end of the mower is lifted upward. The Robomower has a theft-guard deterrent system on board to stop any envious neighbours from walking off with it. You can set up the mower to request a pin number before each use. The mower weighs about 35 kg - or 75 lbs - with the battery in it, so it is not an easy grab. I think I would have felt a little better if it had some kind of alarm on it as well. When it's not in use, the mower can be connected to the charger at all times without the risk of damaging the battery. The charger automatically shuts down when the battery is fully charged. There is no real maintenance needed for the mower except to clean out the built up grass clippings once in a while and replace the blades once a year. You will also need to replace the battery pack after about 3 years of mowing 3 times a week. There was only one real drawback to robotic lawn maintenance. Because the Robomower cruises around your lawn in many directions, it doesn't leave nice neat stripes on your lawn like the traditional mower. There aren't really any stripes at all, and some people really didn't like that. And for some, mowing the lawn is a good excuse to get outside and exercise. You may think the Robomower is a product of laziness, but think about other household appliances like dishwashers or even washing machines that have replaced human hands over the years. I like to think the Robomower as a technology of convenience that gives me time to do other things - like have a backyard BBQ!