So you’re driving along in southern Maryland and see a commercial riding mower cruising along cutting the grass. No big deal.
Except there’s nobody on board.
1. It’s not haunted.
2. You’re not seeing things.
3. It’s OK to stop everything and just watch the magic happen.
These things are really cool.
While you may have seen small robotic lawn mowers scooting around doing their thing, the size of one of those Roomba vacuum cleaners, get ready for the next phase — full size 60-inch ride-on commercial robotic lawn mowers.
Except maybe we shouldn’t call them ride-on anymore, right?
These full-size commercial robotic mowers aren’t being mass produced anywhere yet, but Level Green Landscaping is ahead of the game, beta testing four of the next-generation machines in partnership with Electric Sheep Robotics, a developer of autonomous navigation technology for lawn mowers. The San Francisco company turns existing commercial lawn mowers, both gas and electric, into autonomous mowers.
Michael Mayberry, chief technology officer at Level Green Landscaping, shares why this is exciting — and what you can expect next.
Commercial Robotic Lawn Mowers are Getting Bigger
Level Green has been using four small Husqvarna robotic mowers on client properties for a while now.
The small mowers bustle around the lawn completely on their own, running on a battery charge quietly, efficiently mowing the lawn.
A boundary guide wire installed underground around a property keeps the mowers contained, sort of like invisible fencing for dogs.
When they’re done mowing, they head back to their charging stations — right on the clients’ property — and get ready for the next day’s work.
But these small commercial robotic lawn mowers only cut a 12-inch section of lawn at a time. That’s not practical for a commercial landscaping company like Level Green, with customers that often have large expanses of turf.
Meet Electric Sheep
Now Level Green has partnered with Electric Sheep to beta test four of their large mowers. The 60-inch zero-turn machines were manufactured by Gravely and fitted with autonomous technology by Electric Sheep. The robotic mowers use laser-based computer vision technology, cameras, GPS and ultrasonic sensors to maneuver across diverse terrain.
Level Green is using the mowers in Southern Maryland to mow the expansive properties of the St. Mary’s County parks and schools, which have lots of wide-open areas.
It’s Win-Win Mowing
The partnership benefits everybody involved, Mayberry says.
“As we use these robotic mowers it gives Electric Sheep data they need to improve the mowers’ function,” he says. “Meanwhile, it helps us get ahead of the game by figuring out the logistics well ahead of our competitors.
“Everything that’s happening on the mower is captured,” Mayberry says. “How much overlap is there in each pass? How is it doing on 3-point turns? How many acres are mowed in a day? How does temperature and weather affect function? Everything is logged.”
Meanwhile, Level Green is working out the complicated details of using larger commercial robotic lawn mowers — much sooner than any of their competitors.
“It’s a big challenge,” Mayberry says. “We have to rethink how we deploy mowers with our crews. Transportation is a challenge.”
These commercial robotic lawn mowers are fitted with delicate sensors, which means they need more space around them on trailers than standard riding mowers. That might mean two mowers per trailer instead of three.
Level Green has to work out the logistics in charging the mowers, too, including upgrading the shop’s power supply to power a whole fleet of electric equipment.
“As we give Electric Sheep the data they need to improve, we’re working through wrinkles on our end, too,” Mayberry says. “We’re doing it now, ahead of this technology going mainstream. We’re dealing with some inefficiencies now as we figure this out, but when all our competitors start doing it, we’ll already have all the logistics figured out and be ahead of the game.”
Why Should Our Customers Care?
Lots of reasons:
Robotic Mowers Are Quiet
These mowers are nice and quiet, allowing early morning or nighttime use.
The Mowing Quality is Great
Commercial robotic lawn mowers have sensors on board, combined with algorithms that ensure there are no skipped spots in your lawn.
A robotic mower understands its location down to less than a centimeter. It will absolutely know what it has mowed and what it hasn’t, providing a very consistent cut.
Meanwhile, human crews can focus on details like pruning, trimming, weeding, adding seasonal color and making sure your entrances look great.
They Help the Environment
Commercial robotic lawn mowers’ reduced noise and zero emissions are a big bonus for the environment.
They’ll Help Control Costs
“Long term, robots will help us keep labor costs down,” Mayberry says. “It’s changing the way we use crews. Maybe we send robot mowers out first, and send crews later for clean-up.
Meanwhile, other landscaping companies without commercial robotic lawn mowers will always need to pay their people more year after year. They’ll be less competitive when it comes to cost.
“These mowers help us be more efficient, and that helps us control costs,” Mayberry says, “so we’ll be more competitive in pricing.”
The Future is Now
Riderless mowers cruising around your property might still seem like science fiction, but get ready.
“This is 100 percent happening,” Mayberry says. “At every single landscaping event or conference there’s a robotics panel.” He’s often on them, a sought-after expert in landscaping technology.
“It’s really intriguing to see how quickly this is catching on,” Mayberry says. “In five to 10 years these robotic mowers will be mainstream. The industry will be changed by this.”
Trust Your Commercial Property Landscape Maintenance to Level Green
As we add more commercial robotic lawn mowers to our fleet of equipment, we hope you’ll be as excited as we are.
The potential for your property is huge.
High-quality service. Even more attention to detail. Plus, they’re really cool.
If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers. Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities, and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC, and parts of Virginia.
Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.
We’d love to hear from you.
Image Source: Electric Sheep Robotics