Arkansas State University uses robotic mowers in pilot program

By edited by Sarah Bunyea

Landscape Services expects to add to the current three mowers.

The open spaces of Arkansas State University’s campus have a new creature competing for the attention of the squirrels and students – autonomous lawn mowers.

According to an article by the University, deployment of three Husqvarna automowers began over the holiday break as a way to efficiently and effectively keep the lawns maintained.

Vince Patterozzi, the new director of Landscape Services for Arkansas State, expects the program to expand in the coming months.

“They operate continuously for four and a half hours mowing, one hour charging, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Patterozzi says in the article. “It creates a number of efficiencies and savings. Since they are electric there are hundreds of gallons of fuel saved. They also reduce the amount of air and noise pollution on campus. They cost between $10 to $50 per mowing season to operate, depending on how much electricity costs to charge the batteries.”

Three are deployed now, with three more set to join later this spring. The automowers use a GPS wire-guided technology to navigate the area they are assigned to mow. Each unit has a home docking and charging station. A mobile app allows Patterozzi and his team to communicate with the units.

“Let’s say we have a severe weather alert,” he says. “We can pull up the app and tell the units to ‘go home’ to their base station, shut down and wait until the weather passes. Then we can tell the units to resume their mowing sequence.”

Curious campus residents are encouraged to not disturb the mowers, but if one gets into a bind or is picked up, it will immediately “phone home” to Patterozzi through the mobile app.

“Each unit has an anti-tampering/anti-theft alarm that goes off if the unit hasn’t been shut down appropriately,” he said. “They also alert us if the unit has stopped more than 90 seconds. So if anyone sees a unit stalled, one of our trained ground crew is probably already on the way to resolve whatever issue stopped the mower.”