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Robotic/Autonomous Mowers for Club Runways?


PWLT
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Hi 

 

Mowing a large green space is a time consuming activity for all clubs, time that I assume most members would rather spend building and/or flying. 

It struck me that with the advance of robot mowers, is this technology now a viable alternative to contract mowers and/or members mowing rotas? 

 

May I ask if any clubs are successfully using such machines? 

 

I'd guess the biggest inhibitors of their adoption are :-

  1. Security of the mower if used where the public have access. 
  2. Charging the mower where a dedicated mains supply isn't available.
  3. Cost 

 

The first needs to be mitigated by the manufacturers, but the second could be as simple as a solar panel trickle charging a leisure battery, which intern, charges the mower via some suitable converter.  Just how long it would take to charge is of course a function of serval variables, but I don't think it's beyond the bounds of the possible? 

 

Mass market autonomous mowers are certainly available for residential gardens and specialised mowers are available for full sized airfields, so hopefully the technology will soon "meet in the middle" and be available to clubs like ours. 

 

Thoughts?

 

Thanks in advance 

 

Regards to all

 

Peter

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Our landlord (farmer) cuts our three acre field about 4 times a year, when he cuts the verges, so sometimes the off-runway areas are knee-high!

 

We have a ride-on mower with grass collector that takes 45 mins to an hour to do the runways and control line circle.  Chairman stores the mower, and cuts the grass - weekly in the summer. Volunteers (me most of the time) distribute the clippings/worm cast soil off the field.

 

We have nowhere to store a mower.  Apparently, we did have a hand mower stored in the club static caravan a number if years ago, but somebody stole it causing significant damage to the caravan.

 

Pros of an automatic one - no need to physically drive the ride-on; a new toy:-) '; probably more people available to store/transport it

Cons - cost (we are tight fisted Yorkshire folk, even though some are 'adopted'); still have to store 'off site'

 

Questions: are they able to look and decide if a part needs an extra 'shave'? What happens to the clippings? Could it cope with our relatively complex closely mown area (see here WHMFC Flying Field - 2021-05 (bmfa.club) the blue overlay is the current close mown element)?

 

I am intrigued.......

 

 

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Hi

We are also a Yorkshire Club, so costs are very important to us too ? 

 

I think, compared to contract mowing, a robot mower could pay for itself within 2 years. Given that they are under warranty for up to five years, they should last longer, so that's not a bad return on the investment. 

 

Security is key of course. They can be programmed to disable themselves whenever they are moved away from their "patch", but thieves don't know that until it's too late. 

 

A physical "shelter" such as this would help hide it from view. Also, by programming it to only come out after dark would also help conceal it's presence. The more secure the shelter, the lower the risk of opportunistic theft etc. 

 

IMG-20180504-WA0008.jpg

 

From what I've read, no shape is too complex. If you want total accuracy, you simply bury a boundary wire around your perimeter. If accuracy is not so critical, then they can follow a virtual GPS map. They are also able to navigate obstacles left out on the grass and in their way.

 

Great question re the clippings, again, from what I've read, due to the fact that they can operate daily/nightly, the clippings are so fine they don't need collecting. In fact, they apparently enhance the quality of the turf significantly.  This is the main reason why sports grounds, including golf courses, are adopting them, where the quality of the "pitch/turf/runway" is really important.  

 

As you say, intriguing.  I think this option will be financially viable sooner rather than later. 

 

I'll let you know how I get on. 

 

Regards

 

Peter

 

 

 

 

 

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I used to be the grass cutting robot until last year when a slightly younger robot took over? He has given up this year and now realizes what hard work and how much time it takes  . We have third robot  willing to give it a go ?

Seriously though  robotic mower would be good A, if it was powerful enogh to cut meadow grass and B, if we could prevent the local scumbags fro stealing it ! 

Too many do-as-you-likeys in the area .

 

We recently had one of our folding tables stolen and the damage caused was ridiculous . No sign of the table top anywhere so suspect they stole it to use as a gate or similar. But if they had half a brain simple Philips screw driver would have saved all the collateral damage cut wire fence and sawn post !

 

Good luck to any club who chooses to leave valuable things like mowers out in the open.

Capture damaged fence 1.JPG

Capture damaged fence 2.JPG

Edited by Engine Doctor
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8 minutes ago, john davidson 1 said:

The biggest drawback must be access to mains electric, many clubs like ours are edges of farm fields, the laying on of power would be uneconomic

Agreed, hence point 2 above. 

We use this solution for our electric fence, to keep the grazing cattle off the runway. 

I haven't done the maths to calculate how long it would be between "mows", but I will once I get power requirements data from some suppliers. 

Cheers

Peter

Edited by PWLT
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All

Just to close this thread off with an update from what I've discovered.

 

Long story short, solar powered autonomous mowers are in development but not yet available at a price point that is affordable for very small clubs like ours. This is a photo of a prototype machine from Graze Mowers. 

0?ui=2&ik=c80df16cad&attid=0.1&permmsgid=msg-a:r-4904917866827983478&th=17d86959cb8cade6&view=fimg&fur=ip&sz=s0-l75-ft&attbid=ANGjdJ94BTMCzf0DUkjIkZEW1mY1Bn94KYv0HjZ-iVtlTjmpFHjPtR5A3EAAzVTtzYmQ1Qtr7cVkDpQU1LGkFilv0sBqz54rRQAQ-pJN9ppaLP_avW5npwNGmmi3Q98&disp=emb&realattid=17d869399025b5639c11

 

If you have the luxury of mains electricity to your airfield, then there are many options available.

https://www.mowermagic.co.uk/acatalog/All-Robot-Mowers.html

 

However, cost is still an issue unless you are already paying commercial rates for areas above 10,000m^2. Machines like this one are already available ..... 

https://www.amsrobotics.co.uk/robotic-mowers-for-airport-mowing/

 

Whilst the "domestic" machines are available for smaller areas, they all currently rely on mains electricity being available. 

 

Solar panel, controller and battery kits are readily available and affordable. However, no one has yet worked through the problems of using them with the current domestic mowers that "assume" mains power is available. 

 

Unfortunately, our club us not currently in a position to take the risk of going down the "DIY" solar charging route, just in case we hit unforeseen problems. I have no doubt that one day we will take small affordable solar mowers for granted, we are just not yet there yet. 

 

Regards to all.

 

Peter

 

PS - I did quite like the look of this machine though as a possible compromise! ? Not autonomous, but RC and petrol powered! 

H40c8d42057354ce3a77275f95c44b0e07.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I suppose a robot mower might work in a few instances........the National Trust use them to look after small lawns on some of their properties.

As for a decent sized, quality club patch, it's not just about cutting the grass but so much in the way of other maintenance jobs as well.

My club has a groundsman (a club member who does a first class job of looking after our large flying area) and gets free membership for his hard work. A small token of our appreciation for his efforts, as it probably works out to an hourly rate of pennies per hour given the time that he spends on keeping our patch in such good condition. We do sometimes have to get contractors in with the right equipment to deal with hedges etc.

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Typically, we rely on a small number of members for maintenance.... Then again, we only have a small number of members!

 

Chairman mows strip; couple of regular/local  fliers remove clippings; farmer landlord mows field. Tends to be same regular/local fliers who do anything else that's needed.

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