Consumers of home automation products have often wondered why iRobot haven’t yet manufactured a Robotic Lawn Mower, but it turns out it probably has been on the cards for a while, there was just the little issue of some legal red tape to get through. Speculation abounds that iRobot’s plans for a grass cutting robot would involve planting low-radio-frequency beacons into the ground, which would be used to guide the robot around the area of grass to be cut. Up until now the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had rules in place for iRobot that stipulated “(e)xcept for operation onboard a ship or terrestrial transportation vehicle, the use of a fixed outdoor infrastructure is prohibited.” The FCC refers to fixed infrastructures as “antennas mounted on outdoor structures”, such as antennas mounted on the outside of a building or on a telephone pole. These beacons would have broken the ‘fixed infrastructure’ rule and the worry was that they could interfere with the telescopes used in radio astronomy.
On August 12, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) waived Section 15.250(c) of its rules for iRobot, thereby granting the brand permission to expand its retail offerings to robot lawn mowers.
iRobot hasn’t officially announced plans to develop robotic lawn mowers, but as the FCC waiver goes on to outline specific operating procedures for iRobot’s hypothetical bot, outlining rules as to how it should carry out it’s outdoor navigation and that the bot and the stakes will only be able to communicate with one another, it is highly likely that an iRobot Lawn Mower could be available in the not so distant future after all.
iRobot released a statement on the topic to CNET:
“iRobot is pleased with the FCC’s decision to grant our request for a waiver of Section 15.250(c) to use low power wideband technologies in the outdoor environment. The FCC’s assessment agrees with our analysis that the technology will not have a negative impact on radio astronomy. iRobot is constantly working to develop new practical robotic solutions that are designed to improve people’s lives, both inside and outside of the home. The FCC’s decision will allow iRobot to continue exploring the viability of wideband, alongside other technologies, as part of a long-term product exploration effort in the lawn mowing category. It is iRobot’s policy not to discuss further specifics at this time.”
If it goes ahead the iRobot Robotic Lawn Mower (RLM) will depend on stakes fitted into the ground – complete with transmitters – to help it move around outdoors. The stakes’ transmitters will communicate with one another and then the lawn mower, to help track a route around the garden. These beacons are expected to be no higher than 24 inches above the ground, and both the RLM and stakes must not communicate with other devices, according to the FCC document.
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Many brands such as Flymo, Robomow, Jon Deere, Husqvarna and Bosch, have already created their own automatic robotic lawnmowers for regular consumers. Autonomous lawn cutting robots have been around for the past 8 years in Europe, opening to mixed reviews and with a price range varying from £825 to £2500.
There are already a few lawn mowing robots available in the US but they are not quite in a price bracket affordable to the average consumer:
Friendly Robotics come in at the lowest price starting at $1399.00 for the Robomow-RM-200 (their most basic model).
The Lawnbott manufactured by KA costs between $1,199.00 & $4,549.00 for their various models.
The BigMow (5Acre), ParcMow (2.5Acre), and Greenmow (1.5Acre) are manufactured by Belrobotics and cost between $8499.00 and $12,800.00 Belrobotics also manufacture the Ballpicker; used on golf driving ranges to pick up golf balls; silently and systematically collecting the balls.
Husqvarna has created one of the most popular autonomous grass cutting robots (Husqvarna Automower 220AC £1,999.99) which cuts lawns up to 1,800sq m. Optional extras include GPS communication and it’s very useful anti theft protection system (an additional cost at £399.99) or two-way SMS text system to alter the settings (£179.99). An iPhone app is also available that lets you start, stop and change the timer settings remotely.
The Worx has a 7″ robot mower on the market called the Landzoid and it is much more affordable to US consumers. The Worx Landroid Unmanned Mowing Vehicle is able to mow narrow, intricate areas of your lawn and is selling well.
“This is not my first robotic lawn mower. Landroid is by far the best I have owned.” – Lucinda H
Apart from the obvious appeal to lazy (or should that be busy) people all around the western world, there are additional benefits to owning a robotic lawn mower, it is actually highly beneficial and good for the quality and upkeep of your lawn. These mowers are set to run on a regular basis – some even daily – which keeps the grass at a naturally low level, the blades are designed so as no stress is caused to the grass and the small clippings decompose very quickly. This eliminates the need to rake and bag the grass clippings while providing natural nutrients to the lawn and since the tiny clippings decompose back into the soil, there is less need for chemical fertilizers. Continuous mowing keeps the lawn looking healthy and lush while the natural fertilization creates a thicker, greener lawn.
Fans of iRobot’s roomba and their other home automation products will be very excited at the prospect of iRobot lawn mowers joining their families sometime in the not so distant future.