Advances in technology occur at varying speeds. The lawnmower, for instance, evolved in incremental steps for longer than a century, mutating from small, hand-powered units equipped with rotating blades to gas-powered machines big enough to ride. In the 21st century, the digital age enables lawnmower technology to take much larger steps. From mowers that cut with lasers to GPS-guided units, these advances carry the futuristic novelty of flying cars from science fiction films.
The Concept - The concept behind the GPS-guided lawn mower is simple: create a mower that requires no work for the homeowner. These units mow your lawn for you, much like a robot vacuum cleans your floors. Commercially available GPS-guided mowers arose from a marriage of industry and scientific research. Major manufacturers and research institutes co-sponsor an annual contest for research science teams based around GPS-guided lawnmower design.
The Technology - The specifics of the technology found in GPS-guided lawnmowers vary depending upon the manufacturer, though all use the same basic technology. These mowers contain computers that connect remotely to a GPS system or similar mapping technology such as Google maps. The GPS system provides the mower with the parameters of a lawn, so the mower “knows” when it reaches the edge of the property line. In his paper “Autonomous Lawnmower Control,” scientist Cameron Morland suggests that individual GPS guided mowers don’t need their own GPS units, but rather can use large, centralized ones found in places such as Coast Guard bases.
Commercially Available Mowers - Husqvarna produces a line of GPS-guided lawnmowers called Automowers. You can download an application for the Husqvarna Automower, for instance, that not only provides coordinates for a mower through Google maps but also turns the mower off and on and initiates a recharging function. Manufacturers such as Husqvarna produce numerous models of GPS-guided lawnmowers suited to different sized lawns and grass types, as well as lawn contours – some automatic mowers climb hills better than others.
Other Robot Mowers - Some companies produce commercially available robot mowers that use technology other than GPS systems. Robomow units, for instance, contain sensors that respond to a wire provided by the company. You install this wire around the perimeter of your yard to provide parameters for your automatic mower. LawnBott uses a similar wire-based technology. Wire-based systems prevent mowers from leaving your lawn, though demonstrate less precise control over a mower than do GPS-based systems. According to a Miami University, GPS systems can accurately control automatic mowers to within an inch of programmed patterns and coordinates.