Robot that shovels snow automatically

Those of you that live in snowier climates will drool over the I-Shovel, a battery powered robot that shovels the snow off your driveway, saving you countless hours of backbreaking labor over the course of a single winter. Its inventors claim that, despite its relatively underpowered motor, it keeps the driveway clear even in heavy snowfall; the trick, apparently, is that the robot constantly monitors the amount of snow on the driveway and springs into action whenever a significant but manageable layer has built up. Unfortunately, the I-Shovel is still a prototype, but with any luck you’ll be able to actually buy one soon. If you’re impatient, of course, you could always try building your own.

[via Toolmonger]


  1. brian says:

    But how does it deal with the massive pile left across the bottom of the driveway by the snowplow?

  2. Pilotgeek says:

    “But how does it deal with the massive pile left across the bottom of the driveway by the snowplow?”


  3. ssun says:

    looks like a gust of wind could bury it under a drift. maybe a robotic snowblower would be more effective, but it would need sensors to prevent accidents and i guess it might only be worth it in areas that regularly get buried in lots of snow. it would be more exciting..

  4. Matt says:

    This is a nice idea, but a heated driveway is way more practical. Also, batteries have poor performance in the cold. And what happens if there’s ice formed on the driveway? I don’t think this bot looks robust enough to still have traction.

  5. Matt R says:

  6. mike says:

    This thing would stand no chance with a real snowfall. In the part of Michigan this robot would be running till the batteries died. I think its and interesting idea but no way it could actually handle real amounts of snow. It can’t even pile it deep enough to handle the next snowfall. I want one that runs the snowblower in -30 weather. Design on that can do that and I am onboard. Until then this is nothing more than a roomba for a cold rain.

  7. Collin says:

    It’s obviously not meant for serious weather, I live in Minnesota and we get some pretty hefty winters and by no means do I expect a robot to be able to do the shoveling (and essentially de-icing) of my driveway…… yet….

  8. GUY says:

    This is perfect here in Portland, Oregon. It barely snows here,if at all.

  9. upnorth says:

    nice try,
    i dont think it would stand a chance in MN for even a day.
    build the thing out of left over humvee parts with a V8 and we’ll have something..

  10. kyle says:

    wow sorry not a hack and not useful. I could have that same drive way clean in a few minutes and be working on he sidewalks, which in my city are your job too.

    If you live somewhere that gets more snow then we do here in boise, id, and you have a driveway that will even remotely accommodate a single car this thing is useless.

    how about one of the real hackers here take this old gas blower (i’ll get it running) and make a real beast of a robot blower or at least one that actually does _something_

  11. VonSkippy says:

    Cute, if I move to Florida I’ll keep it in mind. Otherwise here in Colorado heated driveway and walks are the only way to go. No fuss no muss and no batteries to charge up.

  12. Rangerx52 says:

    This is a good idea, but it has a big flaw-
    If it pushed snow off your driveway for a while, you’d end up with a pile encompassing the borders, a pile that the robot created yet does not have the power to remove. as it continues to push, the width of the border would accumulate until you have a 2 car driveway with a strip in the middle wide enough for one car, surrounded by a neatly packed layer of snow.

    -Needs to eject the snow to a set area (snowblower style)
    -Hell, make it plugin. it needs a very short range anyway, just add a protection circuit and weatherproof it.

  13. DarkFader says:

    don’t trust the shover robot

  14. CyberMan says:

    Great robot, but how fast he can run?

  15. saimhe says:

    Needs a more powerful motor to move the shovel up and down (painstakingly slow). Also, depending solely on the metal tape that marks area border, when it’s meant for the outside??

  16. great , but i think there’s a great enginered problem . the shovel must be oblique to be more efficent . The straight shovel carry too much snow and the engine must be very powerful , with oblique one the load will be lighter .

  17. Alan says:

    Sorry, but I think a roomba would actually do a better job.

  18. James says:

    Heated drives?! Christ, no wonder we have global warming when we’re binning KW heating small sections of tarmac for pure convenience!

    Its not a hack, but its still pretty interesting. With the oblique shovel the load per shovel would initially be lighter, but this will just move the snow sideways, piling it up for the next run making the next load heavier. It works on road-going ploughs because they generally need to travel at higher speeds and only do one pass in each direction, clearing the snow off the road in one go. If they then had to go down the sidewalk and clear that too they’d find twice the depth of snow to move – bringing the same problem back?

  19. tom says:

    the irobot looj ver.1 is only 49$ on woot!!! strap a shovel to 2 of these and your project is done in 10 minutes! remote control+tracks+rechargable battery+decent build quality…. wish i lived in the states..

  20. Deane says:

    It amazing how everyones an expert. From what I can see, it gets snow off the driveway, which is better than where they started.

    Good work!

  21. dext3r says:

    i wonder if you could make a robot that just heated the top side of the concrete and moved around. it would probably have to get super-super-hot (since it will have to move around and wont be covering the entire driveway at once) and there’s no way batteries will be able to give you that kind of energy. oh well.

  22. tony says:

    That looks like a toy. How about putting tubes under your driveway and devising a system that senses snow or icy conditions, and thaws out the black top. Or better yet, shovel your own damn snow, people need to get off their asses.

  23. alex says: the model in the above video must be an earlier version. This one is a little more impressive

  24. Morden says:

    Screw that,

    Dig a ditch on either side of your driveway, run metal tubes full length with geared chain systems and wrap a really strong tarp or conveyor rubber around them. Flip a switch and turn your driveway into a scrolling conveyor belt and have it end on your neighbors property line. Make them clean up all the snow you are dumping onto their property.

    That or heat the tubes and have a drop system so you can fill up water reservoirs with the runoff. Pipe this water into a drain tapped heated garage and wash your car while you sleep. Incorporate some automated plant growing, a multitouch system and a hot tub and you have nerd heaven.

    Silly little robot, now you are my cook and cleaning slave.

  25. fartface says:

    Drool over the iShovel? not.

    Drool over the heated driveway and sidewalks of my more affluent clients. Their driveway is always clear even during a 28″ overnight snowstorm.

    and I bet you $900.00USD that hat iShovel cant handle any heavy wet snow let alone a driveway end filled by a street plow.

  26. x says:

    Most people would be better off getting the exercise from shovelling

  27. kyle007 says:

    geesh you guys are rough.
    @x there are a lot of ppl who are advised to not shovel due to their health or age

    Who hasn’t thought of a better way to shovel snow or cut the lawn.. this person did it and sure it may not be a flawless snow flinging machine, but whose to say this couldn’t be a start in the right direction, and how appropriate for the northern hemisphere in winter.

    @kyle how is this not a hack? last time I check you can buy this off the shelf some where…

    I-Shovel is a prototype with a patent pending design

  28. kyle007 says:


  29. grizball says:

    i’d take my atv with a plow over that any day

  30. Dan says:

    Let the thing run while you sit in from of the tv or play console games and get fat? Get off your fat tush and pick up a shovel.

  31. Canadian eh says:

    I did thinking about projects like this every winter, I am not kidding… But I guess having a robot outside there is one real concern. People who sees it can stole it. And you can’t zap people who “touches” your robot (for example) because they can sue you. (just like you can’t install electric fence around your house. Or at least in our town)

    It is a nice attempt, but I don’t think it will work for most of us.

  32. James says:

    @kyle007 – Surely a hack woudl be a modification to an existing product, or molestation of one in some way, rather than a robot build. Its not a hack, but it’s good enough to feature anyway I think.

  33. IT DUDE says:

    Throw a flamethrower on that sucker and it is equipped for the worst blizzard ever.

  34. CJ says:

    HA HA thats really not for the Québec climate!!!!!!!!!! my snow banks on each side off my drive ways are 6 feet high!!! if he used a snow blower insted it would be more interessting…

  35. aaron says:

    @it dude –

    and then instead of snow you have ice

  36. Mike says:

    (iShovel – shovel)+ propane tank + nozzle + electronic igniter = “iFlamethrower” (instant heated driveway)

    Might burn down the house tho.

  37. crizo says:

    If you’ve ever been camping in snow, you know just how much energy it takes to melt snow. Moving it is far more efficient.

  38. sol says:

    ha, this is a hackaday comment thread classic. A bunch of people bitching about how “it’s not a hack and wouldn’t work and even if it did work it sucks.” This is a great project, prototype or not. Plus, it could be combined with that plasma thruster posted a few days ago.

  39. This is cool, not practical for me where here in Quebec, Canada last year had record snow falls and it is looking like that again for this year. Monday and Tuesday of this week we had over 1 foot of snow. It is now considered normal to have 2-3 days of snow a week. This toy would not last. The other thing is what is fun about not having to do anything. Now the real fun would be a gas powered remote controlled ramming shovel…Now that would be fun!

  40. Anonymous says:

    Looks like it’s only good for half an inch of dry snow. No way is that puny thing going to handle the kind of snowfall we see here in New England. (We’re due for another 6-8″ of snow in the next couple days. Waah.)

    This calls for an automated snowblower. (Not the wussy little plastic ones with covers over everything, I’m talking the 24″ tall, 10 HP steel ones. THAT’S snow removal!

  41. Shadyman says:

    For those of you suggesting a robot snowblower, keep this in mind:

    You’re suggesting putting a robot in control of a potentially human-, child- and pet-mauling vehicle… this would put robots one step closer to world domination.

  42. will d. says:

    the prototype in the posted video here sucks, but the newer prototype on the actual I-Shovel website is really nice. They put some serious snow tires on there, and their algorithm for clearing snow early and often seems sound. Sure it’s underpowered for a large amount of accumulation, but you don’t need that power if you clear snow before it has time to accumulate more than an inch. More power in an autonomous bot = more dangerous. The only knock I have on it is the very slow speed it works, if it’s snowing hard enough and your driveway is big enough this might not be able to keep up. Also this does nothing for the street plowed snow at the end of your driveway, but i don’t know what could possibly be done with that.

  43. Anonymous says:

    “For those of you suggesting a robot snowblower, keep this in mind:

    You’re suggesting putting a robot in control of a potentially human-, child- and pet-mauling vehicle…”

    Okay then, remote-control snowblower.

  44. anonymous says:

    Seems for this device to work it needs to monitor the driveway over a long period of time. How do you keep people from stealing it?

  45. bhartley says:

    well, this isn’t a hack either, and it’s certainly not appropriate for individuals, but its still damn cool: Yuki-taro, the pikachu-esqe snow eating robot.

  46. Freetard says:

    I wish I could have a robot to plow my driveway- it’s 250m long, and we’ve gotten over 10cm of snow in the last day. Plus, it’s warming up right now; plus 2 and climbing, making the stuff sticky and heavy. A *real* hack would be automating my tractor so it could do the job while I sleep.

    I agree that a blower is the way to go. The logic involved in dealing with the banks that build up from multiple passes is very complex (unless you have a massive loader doing the work, duh). The snowbanks beside my driveway are higher than the tractor now (we have almost a metre of snow on the ground), so it requires a bit more than a few passes with an angled blade. The problem with snowblowers is they stop working when the snow gets wet- so for my part of the continent (NW Canada), I think robotics are a ways off!

    I am intrigued by the idea of liquid-warmed driveways, however. A circulating antifreeze solution would be more efficient than electrical resistance heaters, and would probably work even in my unpaved driveway. And it would be cheaper to install too, I’m guessing- pvc irrigation lines and inexpensive pumps for circulation would be adequate.

  47. jiggy-wiggy-piggy says:

    the moter and gear setup looks almost like the powerwheels setup

  48. jiggy-wiggy-piggy says:

    hey freetard that sounds good and all but unless u use a non-toxic varient you gona have a lot af dead pets….it kills them so fat that by the time u notice its to late and anti-freeze has a sweet taste and smell so it like come and drank

  49. jiggy-wiggy-piggy says:

    bhartley yea the japanese have a thing about making everything cute

  50. icefox says:

    I think if they do release a production model, it’s gonna look a lot more…serious than the one they made now. Those wheels would work for the light snow in a small flat driveway but mine is at a 30degree slope and is always covered in ice (no matter how much salt I throw down the night before)and would very quickly end up sliding the robot into the road and to be hit by a plow-truck. Maybe I just have a worst case scenario kind of driveway, but it would need to have treads and possibly a tether just to remain uncrushed.

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