Commercial autonomous mowers is the topic of this page, but if you’re interested in residential autonomous mowers, click here.
Are commercial autonomous mowers (robots) the way of the future for your landscaping service? AI is seeping into all aspects of our lives, why not lawn mowing? If unmanned vehicles can exist on our highways at high speeds and quickly changing circumstances, shouldn’t AI also work well at a much slower pace and in a more controlled environment like a commercial property?
Some of the questions you might have about applying robotic mowers to commercial properties can be addressed right off the bat. If you have other questions about unleashing a robot on any of your existing contracts and properties, please ask us in the comments below.
What The Heck Are Professional Grade Robotic Mowers?
Commercial autonomous mowers are lawnmowers that share the following characteristics.
- They suit commercial locations that are typically larger and more public than residences; places like golf courses, highways, government buildings, and mall lots.
- Normally these grass cutting machines are put into use by crews of landscapers with an arsenal of a variety of yard tools, whether they be gas or battery powered.
- Primarily, they are robotic, as in, not operated by human personnel. They are instead run by artificial intelligence software and hardware that serve as visual readers, or “scanners” of the terrain. (unmanned).
- Such lawnmowers may also contain other features like theft prevention.
- They are NOT remote controlled like a drone or a video game where a person must remain in operation at all times – they run by themselves.
- They may be intervened, started, and stopped from a phone app.
Three Prime AI-Powered Lawnmower Solutions for Lawn Professionals
Top 4 Concerns Regarding Commercial Autonomous Mowers
By and large there are probably 4 main concerns a lawn business owner and manager would want to address. Let’s examine these main points of interest right here right now, regarding incorporating robotics into a landscaping business:
- Capacity of the property
- Quality of the cut
- Safety on the job site
- Cost of implementation
Commercial Autonomous Mowers Capacity
The Husqvarna AI battery powered solution (Automower 500 series) is developed for small to medium sized professional mowing applications, if medium is considered to be up to 1.25 acres.
The Graze AI battery powered lawn machine is developed for medium to large sized professional applications.
The Greenzie AI gas powered solution will also work on large properties as long as the machine onto which this system is installed is big enough to handle it, as most industrial strength standers are. Greenzie can be added to existing commercial lawnmowers and work in small to large sized professional applications.
There is an AI machine for every capacity of cutting location.
Commercial Autonomous Mowers Accuracy
Do they mow well? Can they “color between the lines”?
You’re probably going to be concerned about continuing to provide a good quality lawn service so that you don’t loose any contracts and create bad experiences for your customers. An annoyed customer can cost you business in the future with other prospective new customers due to word of mouth and online reviews.
Some robotic lawn mowing solutions cut well by laying out underground wired boundaries that the mowers stay within, and by combining software and devices for detecting objects in their paths whether the obstacle is small or as imposing as a wall. This is the efficient way that Husqvarna Automower® does it. Others rely on learning a mapped area first, followed by cutting stripes within that area the way Graze and Greenzie do it.
So, how well do they cut without intervention?
These three prime AI powered lawnmowers function differently. Two of these solutions can handle much more rugged terrain, and taller grass. The Husqvarna Automower is not a tall machine and doesn’t have a lot of “deck clearance”, so it is less rugged than the other two, but it can cut up to 3.6″ tall grass. If contracted to maintain a location that has very unkempt grass, a crew would have to initially prep the area with a good cutting and edging prior to setting the Automower out on its routine of continuous maintenance. Automower will however negotiate smaller passage ways the best of the three. The Graze and the Greenzie require much larger, bulkier industrial machines that can be unleashed in rougher and larger open fields. Actually the Greenzie adapts existing equipment with its sensors and software to become unmanned lawnmowers, and is not a lawnmower in and of itself.
As far as staying within the lines, avoiding obstacles, tight turns, they all do that, but the smaller Automower gets closer to things than the bulkier machines so your crew may have less trimming to do.
Automower is much more set it and forget it than other options. Like a goat, it moves about endlessly while mulching and keeping grass cropped to the desired height. This is also good for fertilization.
None of the candidates will handle properties completely without human involvement. With all three machines in use, a landscaping crew will still need to get on site periodically to edge and trim up, and blow away debris.
Still, the robotic mowers can accurately cut grass just like manned lawn mowers.
Commercial Autonomous Mowers Safety
Are they safe to the public, and to the plant life of the area? Will they chop petals off of flowers, or toes off of children?
AI powered lawn mowers have the ability to detect obstacles like balls, walls, chairs, animals, people and avoid them. Well delineated garden beds are also avoided. In the Automower case, that means embedded wiring for delineation along with their on board collision detection systems for non-wired items. For the Graze and Greenzie, that means their initial “scan” will detect and avoid well edged planting wells, trees, or ponds as well as permanent structures like benches, fences and walls.
Robotic mowers are safe to run in public areas.
Commercial Autonomous Mowers Cost
Are they too expensive to implement at a commercial job? Can an employee work for a few years at the same cost or better?
Employees are hard to get, good ones even harder to find. Many landscaping crews experience massive day off requests and employee turnover. It wastes time and money to train newbies into a lawn crew, and those new hires need to be added to a payroll system with employee benefits and all that jazz. Plus there’s the risk of workers compensation claims and unemployment claims and even law suits by those employees. If you add up an employee’s wage, plus insurance for five years, plus cost of their initial training, would you be able to replace that person with a robot mower that pays for itself in two to five years? The most expensive commercial autonomous mowers cost $42,000 and are expected to work for years. An employee will cost a company way more than that.
The cost of actual operation depends upon the lawnmower’s mode of transportation: Battery power, or gas power. Obviously the gas and oil consumption of large machines is an ongoing factor, whereas the cost of batteries, chargers and possible charging stations for the “electric” ones are much less frequently used up and replaced. Gas and oil will cost a company way more than batteries.
Greenzie can be added to existing commercial grade gas lawnmowers, whereas the Husqvarna Automower and the Graze are both battery powered. Due to its small size, the Automower has to crawl an area a lot longer to cut it evenly, and their small and light batteries therefor require more frequent charging (up to 70 minutes on a charge) and they’ll automagically seek out the charging station to re-up. With its width of cut, Graze lawn machine will require less passes to complete a same sized property, and has a larger battery (up to 7 hours on a charge). Charging means a cost of electricity.
A) Cost of a Traditional Zero Turn Mower
The cost of a traditional zero turn mower implementation can be calculated in three parts:
- acquisition of the machine
- operation during its hours in use
- manpower to run it for those hours
- Acquisition: If the professional grade mower cost $8,000 to purchase brand new (without bank loan interest) and could be depreciated down to $0 in three years, then the cost of the machine itself is $2,667 per year.
- Operation: If a zero turn mower burns 2.5 gallons of gasoline per hour, at $3 per gallon, that mower costs $7 per hour to run. If the mower is in use for 30 hours per week, then its yearly gas cost is $10,920 (7 x 30 x 52 not including oil).
- Manpower: If the employee on that machine for those 30 hours each week costs $15/hr, then the yearly employee cost for that piece of equipment is $23,400 (15x30x52 not including benes or OT).
Then a company’s actual cost of ownership and use of a traditional zero turn mower would be $36,987 per year (10,920+23,400+2,667).
Automower and Graze will drastically reduce labor costs, and over 75% of fuel costs. Read on to find out how…
B) Cost of a Robotic Mower
Automower: For a smaller property of less than 1.25 acres, Husqvarna Automower is the clear winner. One can acquire one of the seven Husqvarna 500 series professional robotic mowers for $2,100 to $5,000 at this time. The most expensive one costs $1,667 per year for the same three years of depreciation used in our above example. If these bots consume about 30 kWh of energy each month at $0.17/kWh, it costs (0.17 x 30 x 12) $61.2 per year to operate. Automower’s total estimated cost of ownership is only $1,728 per year. That’s over 21 times better than a traditional mower’s costs.
For properties larger than 1.25 acres, Automower isn’t a consideration. However, the electric and robotic Graze is a winner versus traditional zero turns and standers with employees on larger properties.
Graze: In 2020, the Graze AI mower costs $30,000, that’s $10,000 per year for the same three years of depreciation used in our above “Cost of a Traditional Zero Turn Mower” example. Add $12,000/yr for its software, and your annual cost is $22,000. Let’s high guestimate its energy consumption to be twice that of the Automower due to size and weight. 60 kWh per month equates to $122.40 per year (0.17 x 60 x 12). Graze’s total estimated cost of ownership is $22,122 per year. That’s still a lot cheaper to operate each year than a traditional pro zero turn or stander at only 60% of the cost.
Cleanliness as a perk
Autonomous lawn mowers are not only cost effective; a company would know that they’re helping the environment along the way. Graze CEO estimated that one hour of usage of a gas powered lawnmower emits as much as a car running for 40 hours. Likewise, in 2018 onlynaturalenergy.com stated that, “According to the EPA, one gas lawn mower emits 89 pounds of CO2 and 34 pounds of other pollutants per year. According to a Swedish study, using a mower for one hour has the same carbon footprint as a 100-mile car trip.” – https://www.onlynaturalenergy.com/grass-lawns-are-an-ecological-catastrophe/
This Commercial Autonomous Mowers Study’s Conclusion
Various commercial autonomous mowers can mow various sizes of properties, can accurately cut the grass in those areas, and do it safely. Addition of this type of mower would be very cost effective, but a company would need to pay up front for the future savings and conveniences. On a property of less than 1.3 acres, the Husqvarna Automower would be 21 times cheaper than traditional manned mowers to own and operate per year, and the Graze would only cost 60% of what a traditional situation would cost.
TL;DR – Commercial autonomous mowers are the logical choice for every reason, even in a professional use case.