BOULDER, Colo. — Summer in Colorado is a time when the loud sound of mowers and lawn crews wake up our weekend mornings. But a Boulder company is cutting down on the human labor and pull starts with a more labor-friendly approach to yard care.
You're In Good Company this week with Scythe Robotics.
It's the beginning of the end for gas-guzzling, traditional riding mowers needed for landscaping.
"We find it sad that sort of the best way we have to take care of all our space today is really inefficient — polluting, gas-powered manual machines," said Jack Morrison, the CEO of Scythe Robotics.
Morrison combined his previous software experience of 3D mapping and frustration of cutting his own lawn to help launch a fleet of autonomous mowers.
"So, they're designed to mow large properties like this park here, or housing development, schools, office parks," says Morrison.
How it works is, a person drives the mower around the edge of the property to outline the area to be cut. Then, the machine knows how to divide that section into geometric shapes and gets to work.
"Once it has sort of a boundary map memorized, it knows how to lay down stripes at whatever angle the customer wants," says Morrison.
Each of their mowers is equipped with eight cameras, GPS antennas, and WiFi to help it along.
"Then if it encounters a tree in the middle of the area, it can detect that with the cameras, plan around it, do a nice circle around it, and keep going," says Morrison.
The machines are battery-powered and whisper-quiet so they don't interrupt the neighbors. But a big part of their programming is safety in case the mower encounters a person in its path.
"You don't want to just do a circle around the human like you would a tree," said Morrison. "You want to come to a stop, make sure they exit your area safely, and then continue on the way."
That's because their goal is to be in the background and minimize a labor-intensive process so crews can focus on the finer details of a project.
"They get to take half their crew off of the mower and put them to work doing more creative, more interesting work around the properties," said Morrison. "From edging and trimming, to caring for flower beds and picking up trash."
The mowers are only available for commercial use now, but they hope to develop a personal line of mowers in the future.
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