Automower Part 2 : Preparation and Installation.

This is part 2 of the series “Automower”, click here to read from the “Part 1: Introduction to the Automower”.

As seen in the part 1, these romba require the installation of a boundary wire in the ground.

No matter which robot you choose, the installation is almost identical, but there are some things to know prior to prepare your project.

On top of the maximum recommend surface, Husqvarna recommend the loop to be no longer than 800 meters (2,600ft) of boundary wire, and at maximum 20 cm (8 inch) deep.

But this differs a little from my experience/recommendations.
I have tested multiple loops, some as long as 1.3 km and 28 cm deep (4,260ft long at 11 inch depth). My findings are: The loop can be extended up to 1.3 km (4,260ft) but no deeper than 20 cm (8 inch) for a suitable option, with a little *disclaimer regarding the depth.

*At this depth, no matter the length of the loop, it is possible that the robot will lose the signal from time to time. It’s ok, the robot will search on its own until it is found again.

The decision to go to the depth of 20 cm (8”) was because none of our maintenance equipment operates deeper than 17 cm (6.9”), which means the cable is not a problem for the operator.
But if you are not doing any sub-surface maintenance or have some super careful operators, you can staple the cable directly on the ground, or bury it at any depth desired from 0 to 20 cm (0-8 inch).

Now you know everything about the cable, it’s time to attack the preparation of your project!

I highly recommend mapping the fairway edges with a GPS system, it can be the POGO Pro, a phone app or a dedicated unit.

My pro tips:

  • Check ahead if there are any sprinklers right on the edge as the cable machine can break them.
  • You might be tempted to redesign some fairways, paint them first then map them! Not the other way around. (Ask me how I know that?)
  • Mark the ideal location for the charging stations.

Once all your fairways are marked, I suggest recording them all on an Excel file similar to Figure 1 below. Based on the surfaces, and wire lengths, you can decide how many robots are needed per hole, and which model. You need to look at it hole by hole, not as a whole.

My pro tips:

  • If you don’t want the robot to work 24/7, for example, not mowing during playing hours, you can use the Figure 2 to see what the maximum surface area is recommend per mower per hour. (click on it).
  • I do not recommend using multiple left-over spools to do one big loop, as the more connection you have, the weaker the signal will be.
  • As seen in Part 1, the robot can do +/- 20%, but I strongly suggest using it as a MINUS, as those data are for commercial lawns and not golf courses. If you go over it, the robot can struggle to keep up with the growth.

If your area is greater than 5000 m² (1.25 acres), there are two solutions:

  • Installing multiples robots, each on an individual loop, meaning you will have to cross the middle of the fairway.
  • Installing 1, 2 or 3 automower 550’s in one loop, using the option called “Club solution”.

The club solution:

The club solution is an option exclusive to the 550 model. It enables the installation 1, 2 or 3 automowers in a single loop, no longer than 800 meters (2,600 feet). The charging stations must be placed 5 meters apart. Mainly designed for football pitches, it allows golf course superintendents to not have multiple loops crossing the middle of the fairway. The installation of the Club solution can only be done by a certified Husqvarna reseller. The procedure requires replacement of a small PCB board inside the charging station to give each robot an assignation. This setup require the reseller exclusive software; Autocheck.

Now that your preparation is done, let’s look at the installation.

The installation is a 3-step process: The charging station, the boundary wire, and the power cable.

Step 1: The charging station:

Before installing any cables, it is important to choose the right location for the charging stations.

There are few points to take in consideration:

  • From certain distances the charging stations are hard to distinguish, and near a tee or some strategic spot, they can disturb the player. Also, it is also highly recommended to install a garage, making it bigger in the field of view.
  • The nearest electric access point.
  • The charging stations need to be in an open spot of the fairway (i.e., bottleneck fairways), or the robot can stay stuck several hours in the corners.

The charging stations only require an electric plug. No digging needed; you simply screw it to the bare ground.

Once the locations for the charging stations are selected, you can start to install the boundary wires.

Step 2: The boundary wires:

If you purchase your robot from a local dealer, the easiest solution would be to let him install the wire using his own machine. But that comes with a financial cost, but also means that the wire is most likely to be 2 to 5 cm (0.8 inch) underground.
Or you can go big! Depending on the country (mainly US continent) you can find rental machines that can directly feed the wire underground at a deeper depth. In our case, there was not a single machine in Germany that was capable to achieve our desired 20 cm, so we bought a machine directly from the US. The Line ward L2.

Capable of burying a cable from 10 to 35 cm (4″ to 13″) with a 2.5 cm step, the Line ward L2 is a baby of 380 kilos (825lbs) and produces 23HP, but that comes with a hefty price of almost €20k, depending your location.
The unit comes with different blades, we opted for a ripper blade and a couple of feeder blades which was enough for 27 holes.

We chose to go with burying the cable and not with a trencher to reduce ground disruption. After rolling the worked area, the robot can instantly start to work as you can see on the right-side picture.

The set of blades were really handy to probe the soil first. At 20 cm deep, you don’t know what you can find down there.

Using the ripper blades to do the first passes allowed us to detect every major stone that could damage/reroute the boundary wire. Once all the stones were collected, we then used the feeder blade to permanently install the wire. To smoothen back the surface, we used a 3 step method: First, drive over the trench with a tractor equipped with turf tires, then pro-core at the closest setting and drive once again over the trench. The surface was then 90% smoothed back, the rest will compact itself over time.

Step 3: Installation the power cable.

The need for an electric source for each robot is the biggest drawback of the Automower as few golf courses are equipped for it. To pursue the installation of the Automower, you have two solution:

  1. Installing a power cable.

This is the most tedious solution, but also the less visible once the turf has grown back. Installing electricity all around the course also come with indirect advantages, such as the ability to install light systems or even WIFI extenders.

There is very little to say about installing a power cable, but here are some of my tips:

  • You don’t have to do one loop for all, it is most efficient to start from multiple points such as club house, driving range, toilets, pump house…
  • Try to have each robot, or at least each hole its own fuse circuit. So if something happens to one robot, the rest are not impacted.

We decided to install the power cable in-house using our mini-digger, but to call an electrician to do the final connections.
It is a slow and delicate process that requires machinery and manpower, it will produce some surface disruption until the turf grows back.

We decided to install the power cable in-house using our mini-digger, but to call an electrician to do the final connections.
It is a slow and delicate process that requires machinery and manpower, it will produce some surface disruption until the turf grows back.

If this solution isn’t feasible for you, there is a solution that is work instantly out of the box, require less than 20 minutes per robot, and do not require any earthwork… The solar panel!

2. Installing a solar powered station:

Unlike permanently burying a cable in the ground, installing a solar panel powered charging station is simple, easy, and removable.

The station is made by Autocut UK, in United Kingdom. It comes in two parts: Two solar panels and the base station.
The base station has been designed to fit over the automower docking station, where it will also act as a garage. But it is possible to install the solar station between 15 to 25 meters away from the docking station.

The complete installation weighs around 70 kilos and can be installed in a matter of minutes. The internal components such as the battery, the power converter and the Bluetooth kit are already pre-installed inside the base station. All that is left to do is to bolt the two solar panels to the station. The weight of the station is enough to keep it stable, but if you want to be secure, you can bolt it to the ground. The installation doesn’t take longer than 30minutes.

The two solar panels provide enough electricity to power your robot 24/7 during the season. During wintertime it is recommended to reduce mowing frequency, which coincides with slower growth rate.

Equipped with a Bluetooth transmitter the base antenna can directly communicate with your smartphone, where you can receive a full report of the battery status via mail. It is recommended to perform this operation at least once a month, it takes less than 5 minutes! There is no other maintenance required.

So, underground cable or solar powered station?

Well, there is no right or wrong answer to this question, as both solutions can be used in the same installation. For example, in  an 18 holes installation, it can be easier and cheaper to use the grid for the holes around the club house, pump house, starter house, but might be more efficient to use the solar station for the holes that are on the other side of the course.

To know if a solar panel installation is doable on your course, I recommend you contact Luke Bateman at Lbateman@autocut.co.uk or at autocut.co.uk

Now that everything is ready for the automower to work. Let’s prepare the installation of the robots.

Click here to read the “Part 3: Installation and utilisation of the Automower”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s