Automower Part 7: The threat to the Automower.

This is part 7 of the series “Automower”, click here to read the “Part 1: Introduction to the Automower”.

The automower is an autonomous romba and will perform as long as its environment allows it to. Here are some key points to be aware of:

  1. Divot, animal damage, and turf:

After conducting several trials, I have concluded that unrepaired divots, and damaged areas that are smaller than the size of the robot itself are not an issue for the Automower.
But animal damage, unturfed areas or large areas repaired with divot mix are susceptible to allowing the robot to become stuck.
There are different solution to ensure the robot can carry on despite those conditions.

  • Divots and smaller size damage: Can be fixed with divot mix with no problem.
  • Larger size damage: Repair using sod. The robot can mow correctly after a sod repair.
    Closing the area using small fences, such as metal rods bent in a U shape, so the robot can bump into them.

Left side: Divot and squares fixed with divot mix: Not a problem for the robot.
Middle: Animal damage, robot is stuck on it. Needs a temporary fence.
Right side: Too large an area fixed with divot mix; the robot is stuck on it. Requires sod or fence.

2. Object on the course:

Anything that enters the working area of the robot is a potential threat to the robot. As we have seen in the previous part, the robot detects obstacles by using a touch and go. Smaller objects such as golf balls, ropes, or irrigation hoses are too small for the robot to detect.
In the case of a golf ball, the spinning head will simply push it away, but ropes can tangle around the head and trigger an alarm “cutting disk blocked” on your smartphone. But the robot can also be the threat! During extreme heat periods, our staff are often hand watering hot spots on the fairways using long hoses. Hoses are too light or short to trigger the sensors on the automower and in the worst-case scenarios the robot can carry on and cut the hoses, not really what you want.
It takes a little bit of education for the greenkeeping staff to be aware of where the robots are, and if they need to pause them or send them to their stations.

3. Weather conditions:

As the mowers operate 24/7 outside, they are very subject to all types of weather conditions:

  • Heavy rain: The robots are extremely light and can continue to work much longer than a conventional reel mower, but if the water starts to puddle, there is a risk for the robot to cross a puddle and to drown in the water. Even a few drops can result in condensation on the internal electronics and cause corrosion.
  • Frost: Mowing in the frost can not only result in turf damage, but it will also affect the robot. The frost can build up on the blades or the wheels and set off the robot’s alarm.
  • Hail stone: As the robots are made of plastic, hail stones can break or crack the main frame and result in water infiltration. It is highly recommended to equip the charging stations with a garage, to protect the robots during these situations. A thorough check-up of the fleet is required after an episode of heavy hail stones.
  • Thunder: The ultimate threat! Charging stations, boundaries wires and robots are first choice targets for lightning. In our 2 seasons with the robots, we have had 1 robot and 2 charging stations hit by a lightning.

The best way to manage your fleet during a weather event, is to use the app Husqvarna Fleet Service, where you can park all your robots at a tap of a finger. You can also resume them all the same way once the weather has returned to normal.

Left and right: Frost build up on the blades and wheels.

4. Players of the course:

Let say it directly, players are the biggest threat to your automower, and bad things will happen.
There are several scenarios that include golfers on the equation:

a) Turning the robot off / lifting the robots:

Intentional or not, players are notoriously famous to mess with the robots. Excuse varies from “The robot ate my ball”, “I was interested and simply wanted to see” or the classic “It wasn’t me”, players would lift and turn the robots in every way they can. Every time one of those alarm goes off, it requires a physical intervention to turn the alarm off.
If you are a member’s exclusive golf club, it can go away once players get used to it, but for golf course open to green-fee… There is always a visitor to get intrigued and set your robot off. To reduce this from happening we installed two A3 sheets explaining why the robots are here and the rules if they interfere with your play. We also have one mower in the club house that they can have a closer look to it.

b) Flying golf ball:

The robots and charging stations are made of plastic and an unfortunate shot can cause quiet an amount of damage. It is important to remember that both the charging stations and robots have to stay waterproof and that any cracks can lead extensive damage to the electronics behind it!

We have equipped all our charging stations with aluminium garages to protect them from errant golf balls and judging by the dents on some of them… it was worth it! A garage costs €150, a charging station cost €400! The maths are simple!

c) Reckless driving:

And this is probably the greatest threat, because the robots and charging stations are so small, they can be completely totalled in a matter of seconds if someone hits them with an e-cart…
We keep our robots in bright orange, and big garages to ensure our players are paying attention to them, but nothing can stop drunk drivers… E-cart 1 – Charging station 0.

Left side: Our charging station, only a few days after the probatory installation.
Right side: A totalled robot, not ours, but one of my dealers.

Think you are ready to handle the automower like a champ? Let’s talk about the dark side of the automower!

Click here to read the Automower “Part 8: The dark side of the Automower”.

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