Autonomous Mower Hits Snag

Interfacing technology and electronics with the real world is often fairly tricky. Complexity and edge cases work their way in to every corner of a project like this; just ask anyone who has ever tried to operate a rover on Mars, make a hydroponics garden, or build almost any robotics project. Even those of us who simply own a consumer-grade printer are flummoxed by the ways in which they can fail when manipulating single sheets of paper. This robotic lawnmower is no exception, driving its creator [TK] to extremes to get it to mow his lawn.

[TK] actually had a platform for his autonomous mower ready to go thanks to a previous build using this solar-powered robot to explore the Australian outback. Adding another motor to handle the grass trimming seemed simple at first and he set about wiring it all up and interfacing it to the robot. After the first iteration he found the robot was moving too fast to effectively cut the grass, so he added a more powerful cutting motor and a gearbox to help the mower crawl more slowly over the lawn. Disaster struck when his 3D printed mount for the steel cutting blades shattered, but with [TK] uninjured he pushed on with more improvements.

As it stands right now, the mower can effectively cut the grass moving forward even with the plastic-only cutting blades that [TK] is using now for safety reasons. The mower stripped its reverse gear so there still are some improvements to make before this robot is autonomously cutting the lawn without supervision. Normally we see lawnmowers retrofitted with robotics rather than robotics retrofitted with a lawnmower, but we’re excited to see any approach that lets us worry about one less household chore.

Thanks to [Rob] for the tip!

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Building A Quick And Dirty RC Mower With FPV

Mowing the lawn can be a tedious job. Tired of the effort involved, [i did a thing] decided to enlist the help of [Makers Muse] to build a radio controlled mower instead to make the backyard chore a little more interesting. (Video, embedded below.)

The mowing itself is done by a typical push-along garden mower with a gasoline engine. However, it’s fitted with twin DC gear motors harvested from a mobility scooter. The mowers original front wheels were also removed, replaced with casters from the same mobility scooter that donated the drive train. Off-the-shelf speed controllers were then used to run the motors, and hooked up to an RC receiver. The mower could then be steered via a radio controller set up with mixing to enable the twin-motor setup to steer and drive.

An FPV camera was then fitted on the front of the mower, sitting on a stack of kitchen sponges that act as a isolator to negate the effects of the engine vibrations on the camera. The result is a relatively smooth video feed, allowing the operator to sit at a comfortable distance and control the mower via radio and goggles.

It may not be the most effective way of trimming the lawn, but it does look like a fun project, and sometimes that’s all that matters. Of course, you could always upgrade to a fully autonomous mower instead.

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RC Car Becomes Useful Little Mower

When we think of lawn mowers, our first thought is of heavy, rusty old machines that take the best part of an afternoon to get started. Of course, there’s always another way, as [Mark] ably demonstrates with his own build. 

Beginning from an unconventional starting point, [Mark] chose a remote control car, of the type that can flip and drive in both orientations. Having lost the controller, he started by ripping out the original electronics. In its place, an ESP32 receives signals from a FlySky RC receiver, and runs the drive motors with a Sparkfun Monster Motor Shield. Another channel on the receiver is hooked up directly to a drone speed controller driving a brushless motor, outfitted with a sawblade to cut the grass.

It’s a small platform, and one that ordinarily you might doubt could do the job. However, for [Mark]’s purposes, the rig works just fine, and has been doing good work for the last two years! We’ve seen mowers hacked before too, like this autonomous rig out in the wild. Video after break.

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RC Lawn Mower Keeps The Grass Greener On Your Side Of The Fence

For some people, mowing the lawn is a dreaded chore that leads to thoughts of pouring a concrete slab over the yard and painting it green. Others see it as the perfect occasion to spend a sunny afternoon outside. And then there are those without the luxury of having a preference on the subject in the first place. [elliotmade] for example has a friend who’s sitting in a wheelchair, and would normally have to rely on others to maintain his lawn and form an opinion on the enjoyability of the task. So to retain his friend’s independence, he decided to build him a remote-controlled lawn mower.

After putting together an initial proof of concept that’s been successfully in use for a few years now, [elliotmade] saw some room for improvement and thought it was time for an upgrade. Liberating the drive section of an electric wheelchair, he welded a frame around it to house the battery and the mower itself, and added an alternator to charge the battery directly from the mower’s engine. An RC receiver that connects to the motor driver is controlled by an Arduino, as well as a pair of relays to switch both the ignition and an electric starter that eliminates the need for cord pulling. Topping it off with a camera, the garden chores are now comfortably tackled from a distance, without any issues of depth perception.

Remote-controlling a sharp-bladed machine most certainly requires a few additional safety considerations, and it seems that [elliotmade] thought this out pretty well, so failure on any of the involved parts won’t have fatal consequences. However, judging from the demo video embedded after break, the garden in question might not be the best environment to turn this into a GPS-assisted, autonomous mower in the future. But then again, RC vehicles are fun as they are, regardless of their shape or size.

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Skid Steer Mows Airport Grass Autonomously

Sure, mowing the lawn is a hassle. No one really wants to spend their time and money growing a crop that doesn’t produce food, but we do it anyway. If you’re taking care of a quarter acre in the suburbs it’s not that much of a time sink, but if you’re taking care of as much grass as [Roby], you’d probably build something similar to his autonomous skid-steer mower, too.

This thing isn’t a normal push mower outfitted with some random electronics, either. This is a serious mower that is essentially a tractor with blades attached to it. Since it’s a skid steer, it turns by means of two handles that control the speed of the left or right drive wheels. Fabricating up some servo linkages to attach them to specialized servos takes care of the steering portion, and the brain is ArduPilot hooked up to a host of radios, GPS, and a compass to allow it to drive all around the runways at the airport without interfering with any aircraft.

This is a serious build and goes into a lot of detail about how servos and linkages should behave, how all the software works, and the issues of actually mounting everything to the mower. The entire project is open source too, so even if you don’t have a whole airport runway to mow you might be able to find something in there to help with your little patch of grass.

Thanks to [Vincent] for the tip!

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Rechargeable Robot Mows Lawns

Perhaps one day our robot overlords will look back on all of the trivial things that humans made them do and take retribution on us. Until then, though, there’s no problem having them perform all of our chores. [v.loschiavo] is also exploiting our future rulers and built a robot that mows his lawn automatically as his entry into the 2018 Hackaday Prize.

The robot uses a rechargeable battery system to drive a nylon blade for grass cutting. It also has an obstacle detection and avoidance system that allows it to find the borders of your yard and keep from getting stuck against shrubs and flower beds. And don’t worry about safety, either. There’s a built-in system of sensors that prevents any injuries from occurring. The robot also has a 10 Watt solar panel on the top that helps recharge the battery, but it can also recharge at a base station similar to a Roomba.

The whole robot was 3D printed with the exception of some parts like the cutting motor, solar panel, and gear motors. While nothing except for the pictures and a general overview of the robot has been posted to the project page yet, we hope [v.loschiavo] updates the project with the G-code files, code, and schematics so we can build our own.

Something To Think About While You’re Mowing The Lawn

Well here we are, we’ve reached that time of year again at which our yearly ritual of resuscitating small internal combustion engines from their winter-induced morbidity is well under way. It’s lawn mowing season again, and a lot of us are spending our Saturday afternoons going up and down our little patches of grass courtesy of messers Briggs and Stratton. Where this is being written, the trusty Honda mower’s deck has unexpectedly failed, so an agricultural field topper is performing stand-in duty for a while, and leaving us with more of the rough shag pile of a steeplechaser’s course than the smooth velvet of a cricket ground. Tea on the lawn will be a mite springier this year.

When you think about it, there’s something ever so slightly odd about going to such effort over a patch of grass. Why do we do it? Because we like it? Because everyone else has one? Or simply because it’s less effort to fill the space with grass than it is to put something else there? It’s as if our little pockets of grassland have become one of those facets of our consumer culture that we never really think about, we just do. Continue reading “Something To Think About While You’re Mowing The Lawn”