Solar Powered Robot Mows Your Lawn While You Chill Indoors

We’ve heard quite a number of radio ads lately trying to sell an automatic lawn mowing robot (like a Roomba for your grass). But wouldn’t it be a lot more fun to hack your own from an existing lawnmower? That’s what [Daniel Epperson] did. In fact, the project has been ongoing for years. But he wrote in to share the latest development which adds solar charging capabilities to the robot mower.

First off let’s discuss the fact that this is not an electric lawnmower. This is the Prius of lawnmowers, bringing together hybrid technology to cut the grass with the gasoline powered motor, and to propel the rig with electricity. [Danny’s] worked hard to shoe-horn just about every feature imaginable (other than autonomy) into the thing, and that’s why the batteries can be charged from mains, an alternator powered by the gas motor, and now from the PV panel mounted on top of it. Get the entire project overview in his roundup post.

This a wireless video feed and the mower is driven by remote-controlled. So you can give your yard a trim without getting sweaty. After the jump we’ve embedded a clip of an earlier revision demonstrating that remote control. If you’re not interest in having all the features you could simply build an analog version.

47 thoughts on “Solar Powered Robot Mows Your Lawn While You Chill Indoors

  1. This is a RC lawn mower not a “robot” . Normally “robot” implies capable of doing task with out user intervention. or at a minimum capable of following a set of instructions.

    This is a cool hack and could be the prefect platform for full automation of lawn care. add fertilizer dispenser and a skedaddling server you would never need go outside again ;)

    1. Disagree on the implications of robot. There are plenty of things described as robots that are remote-controlled. See, for example, robotic arms.

      I think this is wonderful, and am thinking about doing much the same thing, though I’d rather do it with an electric mower.

      1. A robotic arm can both be a robot and remote controlled dependent on hardware design / software. The difference in my mind is when movement is controlled programmatically and can be sequenced example a CNC is a robot a manual mill is not even if the manual mill is RC controlled.

    2. I agree with you. I always failed to see the robot in “Robot Wars” to me, they were just RC cars. I would have been much more impressed if they worked out things on there own.

      1. From my perspective a autonomous robot would make desiccations based on environmental factor and inputs then act on them . Example a line following robot when off line correct position move ford. It responds to its environment and makes then implements choices about its movement. a non autonomous robot would be for example a CNC it requires a user to initialize it then runs a sequence of movements possible correcting path with limit switch data. the sequence will always be executed the same way. A remote control device is directly operated by a human. a direct correlation between control stick moment and machine response.

        This is not a robot or autonomous it is a Remote controlled platform with a mower attached. it could be upgraded to a robot and even autonomous aspect . a micro controller patched into the motor drive systems a GPS and some object detection system would allow it run safely when not supervised.

        1. > for example a CNC it requires a user to initialize it then runs a sequence of movements

          technically the only difference between that and this is with the mower, the human is manually issuing the commands one at a time, instead of all at once at the beginning like with the CNC. This allows for feedback from the human to be incorporated quicker.

          However this lawnmower is pretty much just like the CNC. The human issues a command and the mower does it. It just happens to be that the commands are much shorter.

          1. my car is a robot I use mechanical linkages to control its movement and store a series of movements in my head ???
            no cars and planes (with fly by wire) are not robots. merely controlled by a user a RC is controlled by a remote user. This can not be calcified as a robot or else cars and planes would be also.

          2. If I’m reading David correctly he expects some level of autonomy with the label of robot. And I agree. Using robot technology does not automatically make something a robot.

  2. Reminds me of the “hybrid” riding mower I saw the other day at Lowes, except in reverse of this. Electric motors powered the propulsion and mowing deck, gas engine powered the electricity (and a generator panel, so it was effectively a self-propelled 7kW generator).

  3. “Solar powered robot mows your lawn while you chill indoors” decieving topic for something that requires human input and the vid is the guy outside … yet maybe I missed the solar panel too in video…

  4. Well executed build I never understand why folks build these with such large footprints. Look how far the wheels protrude out, you loose all that cutting area. When I build mine, this will be one of the problems I can (hopefully) address.

  5. This is so useless… The major problem when mowing my lawn is that I have to empty the container every 2 minutes. It’s so annoying. When somebody makes a lawn mower that can also go to a predefined location and empty the cargo, then we’ll have a winner. Until then you’ll just remote control the thing a few yards and then get up to empty the container. So… useless. Also look at the guy’s grass. Not quite top-notch, huh? I bet he lets the cut grass there instead of cleaning it.

    1. don’t put your clipping catcher on – let the clippings compost down in place and act as a fertilizer…, . it is better for your lawn, and cheaper on your pocket book too – you’ll need less fertilizer during the hotter months, and the bed of mulch that it produces will also help to keep some of the moisture in your grass and not evaporate leading to dry grass. you just need to make sure you aerate your lawn every month (buy some cheap sandals and cut some plywood to fit, drive nails through the wood, then attach with glue/adhesive so the nails poke down – then walk over your lawn )

      1. Oh no! why for goodness sake did he not consult you first! Instead of actually doing something instead of asking someone who has enough time on their hands to troll people who are too busy hacking and making to do so themselves!

      2. The guys who planted my lawn said to never do that, it kills the lawn. Well, I’m in Europe, different climate, different lawn species, who knows. The thing is I have to haul lots and lots of cut grass every time I mow the thing. Drives me crazy :D

        1. I’m surprised at the ignorance of posters here. Then again, I like watching PBS shows like this old house. In one episode they actually installed a robotic mower which not only mowed the lawn more than once a week, it dropped clippings off in a predefined spot.

          The benefits of both are a healthier lawn without the home owner needing to cut the grass once a week.

          Here’s a link to Robomow.

        2. well, seeing as my lawn is usually the greenest on my street, i think i have a bit of proof to back it up. it only harms your lawn if you don’t aerate it. otherwise it is perfectly fine. as an alternative, you could get a lawn sweeper – it basically sweeps up the clippings as you push it around your lawn.

  6. What is it with engineery types and linguistic prescriptivism? A lot of people use “robot” to describe semi-autonomous or RC vehicles. It’s a common colloquial use, and no amount of bitching is going to change that. It’s also not like this is one of those colloquialisms that completely destroy the intended meaning, like using quotes for emphasis.

    In any case, I think completely autonomous mowers are a pretty bad idea. It works with vacuums because the inside of your house is a relatively controlled environment, and because vacuums don’t have whirring steel blades. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve avoided mowing over a rock or small animal only because I was looking at what I was mowing from a few feet away. Do I like mowing? Hell no, but I also don’t trust current robot tech not to blender the snake that eats the voles that destroy my goddamn garden.

    1. It gets worse than the distinction between RC and autonomous.
      I was taking a robotics class and there was a distinction made between stepper driven and servo driven machines. Stepper = not a robot. Servo = is a robot.

      The primary difference between steppers and servos is that servos have feedback loops where as steppers do not. As a result of the feedback loop, the controller can decide whether to go onto the next step or repeat the current step. If the current step is repeated and is still not completed, then the controller faults out and stops the process. Another benefit to this is that one can restart the process and the controller will continue from the line that caused the fault. A typical stepper controlled machine cannot do these things and must start from the beginning for the program.

      So depending on how specific one wants the definition to be, the only machines that are considered robots are those that have a closed loop system that are automated with a program. And even this description will become outdated if artificial intelligence is achieved.

  7. I dunno, when I built my own wheeled ROV years ago (Probe II SG) I hung with Robotics folks.
    SO much so that I was the VP of the old “Robotics Club of Yahoo” for like 6 years.

    That “not a robot” stuff is needlessly divisive in a field where we need MORE collaboration, both with each other AND with the robots.

    So get collaboratin’

  8. A bit late to this discussion but I suggest omitting the grass munching bits and mount a metal detector on the mower platform with some way of recording the detector signal together with the mower position for later perusal. If the platform then follows a search pattern then it may be possible to ‘pinpoint’ any signal anomollies for further investigation.

    An incentive in some areas of the world might be might be the lure of finding something valuable – see following link:

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