Landscape Design

Robotic Lawn Mowers — Are They Worth It for Your 2018 Landscape?

By November 21, 2017 No Comments

Advances in technology are everywhere these days, and at times it can feel like robots are taking over the world. The next job on the docket? Lawn mowing.

Robin Autopilot is a startup that promises to automate one of the most tedious chores of all: mowing the lawn. The company recently appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” to show off their concept: a robot lawn mower that does the basics, paired with professional landscapers who take care of the detailing to provide full-service landscaping services.

Though the sharks didn’t bite on this concept and declined to invest, Robin Autopilot is moving ahead with plans to franchise their robotic mowers to landscapers. The model is for Robin Autopilot to franchise to local landscapers. Local franchises will provide installation of the robotic system in homeowners’ yards and follow up with service. They’ll then be free to focus on providing more skilled landscaping services to customers, including edging, planting and hardscape design services.

How the Robot Lawn Mower Works

The robot itself looks like a fairly traditional lawn mower without the handle — and painted in a stylish shade of robin’s egg blue. The highly efficient machines have zero emissions and promise to use just 11kw/H of electricity per month.

The mowers work like a Roomba vacuum cleaner, continually mowing in a random pattern to regularly cover the entire yard. While a Roomba changes directions when it bumps into a wall, the Robin mower requires low-profile guide wires around the property’s perimeter to keep it where it belongs. Robots were extensively tested in an early roll-out in the Dallas area, with strong results.

Robotic Lawn Mower Reviews

Because the Robin robotic lawn mowers are so new, it’s hard to tell exactly where this new technology is heading, though the founders are optimistic. Despite not getting a deal on “Shark Tank,” they plan to continue with franchising plans in the South, where they’re familiar with the lay of the land. While it’s only a matter of time until users get a chance to share their experiences with robot landscapers on the internet, there are already some clear pros and cons to automating grass trimming.

Benefits of Robotic Lawn Services for Homeowners

Robin Autopilot is most likely to appeal to environmentally minded homeowners who place a premium on lowering their carbon footprint since these robots don’t use any gasoline at all. They’re nearly silent and don’t give off any toxic fumes, which is a bonus for people who value peace and quiet, as well as families concerned with the air quality for their kids and pets. The robots are beautifully designed and will be the talk of the neighborhood, which is sure to please early-tech adopters and anyone who wants to be the Joneses, not just keep up with them.

Negatives of Robotic Lawn Services for Homeowners

The founders admit that some robots have been stolen out of people’s yards, though they have since added GPS trackers to curb this issue. Fences that divide up the property — for instance, a security fence around a swimming pool — may also make even mowing more difficult. Robin Autopilot offers to install a special door that lets the robot pass through while keeping pets in place, but it’s not clear how easily this can be installed on metal fences or in areas with significant grade differences. The starting price in the Dallas area was $99 per month, which could be significantly more than standard lawn mowing services, depending on local rates.

Benefits of Robotic Lawn Services for a Landscaping Company

Being the first or only landscaper in a region to offer this unique service could draw significant attention to a landscaper’s business and help court customers with disposable income for next-level lawn care services. Taking tedious lawn mowing chores off the table could also free up time to work on more interesting, challenging and profitable services, such as custom designed hardscaping or specialty garden installations. Robin Autopilot has stated a preference for working with veterans, which could give certain landscapers a leg up on a post-military career.

Negatives of Robotic Lawn Services for a Landscaping Company

Like any franchise, buy-in costs are steep: Robin estimates an initial investment between $50,000 to $106,000. Installation of robotic systems requires special training and time to learn; for those without a love of technology or desire to master a new skill, this could be tedious or unappealing. Because using robots as a service hasn’t been around for very long, there’s not much evidence about the demand for this product or the longevity of the systems; unforeseen bugs could lead to expensive and/or time-consuming site visits to make repairs.

Owner of Parker Homescape, Scott Parker acknowledges the potential problems associated with the lack of supervision involved with dangerous moving blades. “Site conditions should be evaluated prior to operating a robot without supervision. What if another contractor or person needs access to the lawn or is on the lawn while the robot is trying to operate? Can a robot really cut a lawn in a challenging area as well as a human operator?,” he mused.

Whether or not robot lawn mowers make sense for you probably depends on how much you love new technology — and how much you hate mowing the lawn. There’s no doubt that smart homes and lawns are making significant inroads into our daily lives, though, so it’s highly likely that the robots will be coming to a neighborhood near you sometime soon.

DISCLAIMER: Scott Parker, as well as the employees and staff of Parker Homescape have never used Robin AutoPilot technology. We are simply providing our thoughts based on years of experience in the industry.