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New Innovations in the industry
ROBOTIC LAWN MOWERS
Luis M. Medina, an electrical engineer by training (New Jersey Institute of Technology), founded Evatech in 2003 to manufacture robotic equipment, including mowers. Today, his company produces four different series of robotic units, including three different-sized robotic lawn mowers. They range from the tiny robotic M.A.G.A., available with a 22-inch cutting deck or snow blade, to the commercial Trex 44 with a 44-inch cutting deck. The Trex (Terrestrial Robotic Explorer) is a result of “eight years of intellectual evolution and countless hours of experimentation,” says Medina from his manufacturing plant in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
“I lost my job, so I had the option of working for another company or doing something on my own, which is what I did,” says Medina. “I knew it would be risky, but it is paying off.”
Medina holds several patents for his robotic products, including their hybrid propulsion system. He says he is manufacturing and shipping mowers worldwide. The U.S. market comprises “about 40 percent” of his sales.
“Our mowers are used mostly in environments that are too extreme or dangerous for operators,” says Medina.
Another entrant into the robotic mower market is Summit Mowers LLC, New Albany, Mississippi, which offers several small, rubber-tracked robotic lawn mowers designed to cut hillsides or other difficult terrain. Its latest commercial model, the TRX-42-PRO, is powered by a 24-horsepower Kohler engine and can cut on slopes up to 50 degrees with a 300-foot range of operation.
Mowing the rough turf of hillsides and sloped properties is one thing; mowing the fine turf found on home lawns, commercial properties, parks, golf courses and sports fields is another.
Manufacturers are not yet as far along in producing robotic lawn mowers capable of cutting home lawns—at least not on a commercial scale. No such equipment exists yet. But some industry experts predict this will change. And it may change sooner than expected.
“Within the next 24 to 36 months, you are going to see autonomous mowing equipment for commercial usage,” says Rick Cuddihe, a consultant who has spent his entire adult life as a player in the commercial mowing market.
Cuddihe, who worked closely with innovator Dane Scag on developing some of the key technological features on today’s popular zero-turn mowers, is now heavily engaged with the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in Pittsburgh. His goal is to develop autonomous commercial mowers. The NREC is an operating unit within the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. The Center works closely with clients to apply robotics technologies to real-world processes and products.