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Building A Homebrew Robotic Lawnmower?

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the rotors-of-death dept.

Robotics 486

mmonkey writes "With the seemingly small amount of summer we get here in the UK, the last thing I want to be doing on a sunny day is mow the lawn. So I started thinking "surely a light-ish lawnmower could 'gain' a couple of motors, and suddenly be computer-controlled?". Then I started thinking about stuff like obstacle avoidance, optimum path planning, guidance system, how to get pretty-looking stripes, and I realised that it's actually a potentially complex (read: fun) thing to do. So, have any Slashdotters done this before? Did you modify an existing lawnmower or build a whole new one from scratch? What motors work best? For that matter, what type of mower works best? I know you can already get these, but that detracts from both my geek-drive and my wallet, both of which I'd prefer to keep as full as possible."

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Uhhhh (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513570)

I'd make sure its plenty safe. I'm not concerned about you, but picture a mis-programmed robotic lawnmower chasing the neighbors dog, or worse, trying to run over a child... :|

Re:Uhhhh (5, Funny)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513581)

Yeah, I imagine it could be an even deadlier version of Vroomba [] .

Re:Uhhhh (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513626)

Old idea:

Re:Uhhhh (5, Interesting)

Eiki (713952) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513658)

The safe way to do it is to have the thing run with very low power, and just nibble at the lawn, but do it all day. The big gas engine on the top of your push mower is really for the convenience of the operator, so that he can mow tall grass without stalling the thing or slowing down.

But if you mowed the grass yourself, one time, and then let loose your robot to simply maintain the height with a low power electric motor and some relatively safe blades, etc.... After all, it can stay out there all damn day!

Re:Uhhhh (1)

dangerz (540904) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513678)

Ya, but would you/the neighbors be able to tolerate the noise nonstop?

Re:Uhhhh (5, Interesting)

sploxx (622853) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513727)

Yes, I would implement the following:

1. A _safe_ mowing method as you describe
2. The position measurement could be done with (ultra)sonic sensors and a transmitter on the mower. Doesn't work if you have to change garden often.
3. A power and communication cable. Can be cheap because of low power requirements because of 1.
4. A tower from where the cable goes to the mower and a mechanism to ensure that the cable doesn't get in the way.

Of course there is no obstacle avoidance etc., but I would start such a project in a modest size, not with all the 1000 features which _could_ be implemented!

As I'm doing such things also (Homemade microcontroller applications are everywhere in my home), I would say that it is far better to have a little thing working than big plans for a big thing but get nothing implemented.

Re:Uhhhh (1)

simcop2387 (703011) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513880)

one of the things I always wondered about is why couldn't this be done over RF, i know you couldn't do it with timing like you'd expect but you could easily do it by measuring the power your recieving which is relativly easy to do, a couple resistors and caps+ a voltmeter and boom you have a simple way to measure the distance and with 100mw it'd be enough to go to the end of your yard, and you could place 3 small beacons (assuming your yard isn't hilly) in reference locations then make a map of the yard using some small device to measure the distance and then program in the nodes of map, use something like a bsp splitting alg and divide the area up into sections to mow

Re:Uhhhh (1)

bugmenot (788326) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513675)

Remember the three laws from Asimov's: Thou shall not kill yourself Thou shall not kill your master Thou shall not kill your master's friends This appliance should be safe if they follow these three simple rules.

Re:Uhhhh (4, Informative)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513725)

You have that kind of backwards (and wrong). The Asimovian rules are:

1. A robot must never harm a human being

2. A robot must follow a human being's orders, unless that conflicts with Rule #1

3. A robot must preserve itself, unless that conflicts with either Rule #2 or Rule #1.

Re:Uhhhh (4, Funny)

cratermoon (765155) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513793)

You forgot:

0. A robot must never harm humanity.

1. (revised) A robot must never harm a human being unless that conflicts with the zeroth law.

Re:Uhhhh (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513813)

So where does never harming an OCP officer come into that?

Re:Uhhhh (2, Funny)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513875)

only after he's been fired.

Kinda brings a whole new meaning to the term "terminated"...

Re:Uhhhh (4, Interesting)

k4_pacific (736911) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513689)

Suppose you made a grill for the bottom of the mower deck similar to that which covers the blades of an electric razor. This would allow the blades of grass to reach the rotating blades while keeping fingers and toes safe. Perhaps finding one of those big furnace registers like you see in old houses would be the way to go.

Re:Uhhhh (5, Insightful)

upsidedown_duck (788782) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513810)

Suppose you made a grill for the bottom of the mower deck similar to that which covers the blades of an electric razor.

I suspect that if this worked, lawnmower manufacturers would have already done it for liability reasons. One thing about a grill is that it would probably clog for any non-trivial amount of wet grass.

Re:Uhhhh (1)

wintermute1974 (596184) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513907)

Creating a robotic lawnmower is just asking for trouble. Even with the best intentions, I would worry that a homebrew design would harm the public.

Frankly, it is the manufacturers of medical devices that I think would be most capable of designing such a product.

Sure, engineers in the medical field may not pick the best motor, or they may not have the flashiest or most configurable robot, but it would more than likely stop its blades from spinning before even coming close to making contact with a dog's paw or an inquisitive child's hand.

If he ever wanted to, I think Dean Kamen's DEKA [] would make an excellent robot mower.

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513572)

By your command.

Re:first post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513710)

baltar!!!! omg it's baltar!

The simple way (2, Insightful)

macman552 (675277) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513887)

I've seen a lawnmower with the drive held down tied to a pole, and the lawnmower will go around and around, and after each turn, the radius of the circle gets shorter and shorter... not quite as geeky, but definately as effective.

Just for you? (3, Interesting)

Johnathon_Dough (719310) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513573)

If this is something that is for you only, and not for sale, then I would think it would be easy.

If you know what objects are fixed,such as pathways, bird feeders, what-not, you could build the controller from one of those old dump trucks from the 80's that let you pre-program a course by feet and angle of turn, etc. All you need to add is a bar attached to a kill switch for when the neighbors cat/kid/dog runs over to check it out.

Re:Just for you? (2, Informative)

Grant29 (701796) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513646)

How much do you want to spend? Amazon has one for $1,799 []


Fully automated Docking Station mower

Recharges it's power pack by itself

Departs on your schedule

Manual controller (can be used as like a traditional mower for trimming small areas)

It seems expensive, but it if you really want it (and want it now) they are availiable. Even if you don't wan't to spend that type of cash and want to build it from scratch, I'd recommend visiting company websites that develop these and download their product brochures. You might be able to learn enough from them to get some tips on getting started. Look for white papers, FAQs, product manuals too...

9 Gmail invitations availiable []

Re:Just for you? (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513677)

While that is not an entirely preposterous proposition, I have to wonder if you are a troll because your comment seems to almost (?) deliberately ignore all of the complications in the problem. While the goal of mowing one's lawn is to create an orderly and even surface, at its best it will always be an irregular surface in terms of height and traction. A wheeled or even tracked robot will tend to wander when on a hill and there is no guarantee that your motive devices are accomplishing as much as you would like them to. This is all mounted to a chassis which will necessarily absorb a certain amount of shock because the blade will end up hitting things which it was not designed to cut. There are other problems but these are some or the more obvious ones.

Those big trak programmable toys really didn't do all that good a job of making ninety degree turns. They worked best on floors and poorly on everything else - my cousins had one and I got to play with it like once but it didn't do what it was supposed to do. It was still neat, though.

There are other problems with your plan, such as the fact that most lawns are not perfect, empty rectangles. Even if you can accurately track how far you are traveling and how far you have rotated, it's going to be a little more complex than just making a couple of right angle turns. If the problem were that simple, meaning you had a level, flat, even rectangular yard with nothing in it but grass which had already been carefully mowed not more than a day before, you wouldn't even need robotics :P

Don't build One Big Machine (4, Interesting)

kraksmokr (216277) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513737)

If you really want to be different consider an autonomous swarm of mowing machines. The guts of a Roomba would be a good starting point! I'd like to see a self-organizing mesh network created by the mobile mowing agents.

Good luck - I'd love to see this when you're done!

Simpler solution. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513577)

Who needs robots, when Mexicans are cheap?

Re:Simpler solution. (2, Funny)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513596)

uh oh... []

Re:Simpler solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513647)

because it's tougher to build a beowulf cluster out of mexicans.

Redundant? How so? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513706)

Flamebait, perhaps. Troll, maybe. But how can it be redundant when *NOBODY* has mentioned Mexicans before, in either thread or story? Hey, editors: make sure the fuckwit who moderated this "Redundant" never gets to moderate again. Or, better, give him/her/it the Mexican citizenship!

another way (2, Insightful)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513578)

this is off-topic, but you could ask the neighbours kids, they usually will do it for a couple of quid.

not very popular over there but many people do that over here in n.america

even in the long-run would be cheaper than a robot solution (unless this is a personal interest i wouldn't go ahead with it)

Re:another way (3, Funny)

aaron_ds (711489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513791)

Or perhaps your neighbor's robotic kids

so let me get this straight... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513582)

you don't want to spend an hour a week, 6-7 months out the year, mowing the lawn, but you're willing to spend a hundred or possibly several hundred hours building a lawn mowing robot?

Enjoy your summer.

Re:so let me get this straight... (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513751)

Do you know what's the difference between a hobby and a chore?

Re:so let me get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513842)

do you know the difference between clogged arteries, snow white skin and non-geeks?

perhaps this guy can mow the lawn, get a little sun, and a little excercise.

god knows 99% of slashdot needs it.

Re:so let me get this straight... (1)

EboMike (236714) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513818)

Or, more precisely, you'd rather program and build the robot INDOORS than mowing the lawn OUTDOORS? With those "short summers" you have?

How About.... (4, Funny)

dirkdidit (550955) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513586)

How about a goat? Maybe a sheep? Set one of those bad boys loose and you'll have yourself a short lawn. Obstacle avoidance and everything built right in.

Re:How About.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513607)

The only problem with a goat is that it will pull up the grass by the roots and you'll be left with a dustbowl for a yard.

Re:How About.... (1)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513612)

well what happens when the goat or sheep starts crapping all over your lawn? thats just more work. and you would need to fence it too to prevent the animal from escaping.

didn't think of these things now did ya? :)

Re:How About.... (1)

roror (767312) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513665)

fencing is a must .. but, craps can be used as manure O:-)

Re:How About.... (4, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513661)

I read somewhere that in Scotland they use geese for the same purpose. You get a free trespasser alarm, since neither a goat or sheep will care about who enters the space, but a goose will attack first, then make a loud noise, and ask questions later.

Re:How About.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513687)

Problem being that the goose will also attack you. There are few animals more stupid and belligerent than geese, and they routinely bite the hand that feeds them (though not usually hard enough to do any damage - geese are stupid, belligerent and pretty ineffectual).

Re:How About.... (2, Informative)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513709)

How about a goat? Maybe a sheep?

Oh come on. Where the hell is he going to get sheep in England?

Joking aside the parent post need not have been joking. You can actually hire lawn care people who use sheep and goats to trim lawns. They're very effective and can be used even in the rain. They're highly water resistent, as anyone who has ever worn a proper British fisherman's sweater can attest to. Different species of grazers actually eat grass to different hights as well, so you even get that choice and they automatically fertilize as they, ummmmmm, go. They can also be used for things other than trimming lawns, but I won't go into that here.

I fully understand the article poster's geeky itch to build a robot mower, but sheep are probably actually a more effective solution given his enviromental conditions.


Re:How About.... (1)

XaviorPenguin (789745) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513826)

Find a Scottsman, they LOOOOVE Sheep! j/k

Instead of putting down sod or keeping your grass up and mowing it all the time, just invest in alot of money and put astroturf down for your lawn. That way, your "grass" is green all year round!

electric sheep (1)

Random_Goblin (781985) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513827)

so surely what we should be suggesting is that he build robot sheep?

Re:How About.... (4, Funny)

bluesnowmonkey (148168) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513811)

Or better yet, some sort of rental service, or Rent-A-Goat, if you will. Ooh ooh patent patent!

Re:How About.... (1)

cratermoon (765155) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513832)

yeh! You need a website for it, though. is taken, how about

Re:How About.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513833)

Plus sheep can be used for other things...

Re:How About.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513844)

Sheep...Goats... but you need to confine them. If the grass is short enough, and they're hungry enough, they'll get through or over your fence.

Plus, if the grass is that short, the stuff that will keep growing is the stuff that the sheep/goats won't eat. Over time, you'll need to mow it anyways.

Hire a kid to do it if you're that lazy.

Having moved up in size from typical suburban house lot to 1+ acres of grass (and 3 or so acres of pasture), I can say, yes, you're lazy.

Of course, so am I (I have sheep to try and keep it down, but Shetlands don't eat quite agressively enough).

In soviet russia (-1, Offtopic)

MDFedderly (789643) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513587)

In soviet russia, lawn mower designs and builds YOU!

Re:In soviet russia (0, Offtopic)

mw5299 (786276) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513886)

That could be easier... But we wont go there...

Roomba + Mower (3, Interesting)

dracken (453199) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513591)

How about some duct tape job of roomba [] and a lawn mower ? You get obstacle avoidance and area coverage for free. You can even come up with interesting names like "Rower" or "Moomba" :^)

Re:Roomba + Mower (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513730)

Plus it'll leave a really cool spiral pattern on your lawn for the neighbors to applaud.

Re:Roomba + Mower (4, Funny)

MBCook (132727) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513871)

He he he.

"The Black Moomba - As dangerous to grass as it is to small pets".

He he he.

Kill Switch (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513598)

Here's my most important suggestion - while you're testing this thing out, make sure you have a good kill switch.

Personally I dont think this thing would ever be considered safe enough to operate unsupervised. It might save you some work, but if it went out of control or some passerby tried to tamper with it you could end up with a very expensive lawsuit. (IANAL)

Re:Kill Switch (1)

ejaw5 (570071) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513831)

two words: tilt(or inclinometer) sensor.
Once the unit detects enough tilt against the horizontal, it cuts off. Redundancy is also available from underbelly photo sensor, assuming you keep the cutting bay dark in normal operations.

Speaking of obstance avoidance code (4, Funny)

raddan (519638) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513611)

Make sure to code-in police avoidance for when your unattended lawnmower runs over your neighbor's feet while he sleeps in his lawn chair. On the bright side, you might end up with fewer cats hanging around the yard...

MIL (3, Informative)

Grieveq (589084) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513615)

The University of Florida's Machine Intelligence Lab did the research 7-10 years ago.

Careful!!! (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513622)

This is no Roomba. Remember, the difference between a lawn mower and a vacuum cleaner is the *sharp* blades!

Vacuum can't hurt (1)

gonzo_bozo (652898) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513627)

Try the vacuum first and when your design works flawlessly, move on to the lawnmower.

Re:Vacuum can't hurt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513775)

u sure a vacuum can't hurt? Just give a vacuum cleaner to Tim Allen and he's gonna put "MORE POWER" to it and end up with a mobile universe sucking everything up

Can I scan pictures of neighbor kids? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513629)

I mean they'll be staring at the mower and trying to screw around with it anyway, the least I could do is plug in a quickcam to recognize the critters and throttle over their toes or something.

I've had old folks bitch at me for going through their lawns when I was a it's my turn! As a geek, though, I bet we can do a whole lot more than yell "get off my lawn you good-fer-nuthin..."

So you don't want to waste time missing ... (4, Funny)

bloxnet (637785) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513634)

...the sunny days during your short summer. To correct this, you will spend time indoors hacking away and making a homebrew robotic lawnmower.

The best part will be you will have perfected it by the end of August.

Well.. (4, Interesting)

herrvinny (698679) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513635)

My first reaction was, "Well, you linked to what looks like a small business site, so either that site's going down or the hosting fees with bankrupt the company". But I digress.

that detracts from both my geek-drive and my wallet, both of which I'd prefer to keep as full as possible."

Well, I think your wallet's going to be drained either way. You need specialized components, software, etc for a completely automated solution. And even that's not going to be the end-all (corners, adjacent to fences, etc)

I would say start with a remote-controlled (as opposed to computer-controlled; mods, there is a difference) solution, see if you can rip apart some RC Cars [] , take their steering equipment out, see if you can interface to them using a RC Helicopter Remote [] or RC Airplane Remotes [] , connect up the servos, and perhaps sprinkle some detectors [] around your lawn.

Computer controlled would be difficult, to say the least. Perhaps even a Masters level thesis or a really good undergraduate senior project. Hell, if you can make it fairly cheap and efficient, you have your own business.

Re:Well.. (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513859)

Ripping apart radio controlled cars to get pieces for a lawn mower is like ripping apart go-karts to get pieces for a dump truck. Only the largest radio controlled cars are at all along the right scale and those things cost as much as a robotic lawn mower, no joke - I'm talking 1/4 scale here. Even 1/8 scale is pretty small, it's about the size of a lawn mower but designed for low weight and usually equipped with a 0.15 or 0.21 cubic inch nitroethylene motor. Those little .15ci two strokes can put out a horsepower or more but they have very little rotating mass and as such won't do you any good; the ones you want to use for mowing lawns are an order of magnitude larger and heavier.

That said, oversized radio controlled car servos can become the basis of your control mechanism - but there's no point in ripping up a radio-controlled car. The best thing to do is to get a self-propelled mower and a three channel radio and rig the thing up with some sort of system to make it drive in both forward and reverse. This could probably be done with a planetary gear arrangement, some sort of clutches, and a servo to flop it back and forth. Some (most?) self-propelled mowers are powered by a shaft which sticks upright, along the same axis as that of the motor, so designing something to fit on there should be fairly simple. However, I suggest something beefier than just connecting a servo to a linkage with a horn for your steering, perhaps rack and pinion. It's a big steering job even for an oversized servo.

Throttle control, of course, can be handled by any dinky little servo, if you just remove the return spring.

You can probably get an adequate ground-use-only radio system with three servos for a hundred dollars or less, but what you really want is to buy a three channel transmitter, a compatible receiver that will conveniently run off whatever power source you will choose to use (they would usually prefer to have five to six volts) and then go buy servos that fit your application. You'll probably end up dropping a couple hundred bucks on this stuff. And then you get to design the hardware to make the thing turn! Truly your cup runneth over.

Already solved. (0, Redundant)

gonerill (139660) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513642)

The best machine for cutting the grass is available in your neighborhood for a reasonable hourly fee. There may even be one around the house you can make do the job for nothing.

Re:Already solved. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513667)

The best machine for cutting the grass is available in your neighborhood for a reasonable hourly fee. There may even be one around the house you can make do the job for nothing.

What if you live in an all white neighborhood and don't have any slaves?

Ummm.... yeah (4, Funny)

cr@ckwhore (165454) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513643)

So, let me get this straight ... your solution to avoid an afternoon of mowing the lawn is to spend several months automating your lawn mower?? Sweet.

Re:Ummm.... yeah (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513707)

If that's not true geekdom, I don't know what is. Larry Wall would be proud of him.

Go plastic! (5, Funny)

k4_pacific (736911) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513648)

Have you considered artificial grass? It comes in a variety of colors and never needs mowing. Mine is "Misty River Green". With the optional circulated brine heating system, you can have a lush green lawn all year around, even when your neighbors' lawns are covered in snow. I recommend GrassCo brand Artificial Lawn Carpeting with its realistic texture and patented Flow-Thru (TM) drainage system. As a homeowner and lawn care enthusiast, I can assure you, GrassCo brand artificial turf is the only way to go.

Re:Go plastic! (1)

xenotrout (680453) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513735)

Should this be modded up or down for being an obvious astroturfing?

Re:Go plastic! (1)

sploxx (622853) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513879)

Be honest and advertise the original Astroturf product :)

Search the library (4, Informative)

bluGill (862) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513649)

Back before everyone had the internet Popular Electronics (or one such magazine) had a couple articles on this. Lookup it up in the library, you did get the skills of searching in school, didn't you? They operated on batteries, but you could do whatever so long as your managed to power your computer.

The idea was a bunch of sensors, made up of LED senders and receivers. Mow a path around the yard, plus around any trees, and then turn the mower on. It should attempt to keep 2 sensors out of grass, and the rest (~20) in the grass.

BTW, mini-itx boards now have 12 volt power inputs, so things should be easier in many respects.

Re:Search the library (1)

RackinFrackin (152232) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513762)

Popular Electronics (or one such magazine) had a couple articles on this.

I remember reading those articles. A bit of googling turned up references to one of the articles: "Build the Lawn Ranger" in the June 1990 issue of Radio Electronics.

Keep it Simple (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513650)

Materials: (1) Self Propelled Lawn Mower
(1) long rope
(1) stake

Step 1: Plant stake in yard
Step 2: Tie rope to stake
Step 3: Tie other end of rope to lawn mower
Step 4: Start mower.

Re:Keep it Simple (1)

jrl87 (669651) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513745)

and a whench (sp?) that is computer controlled or programmable to move it closer to the stake so it mows the whole area of the circle, not just the circumference

Re:Keep it Simple (2, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513768)

Not quite. The rope gets rolled around the stake, pulling the mower closer at each turn.

Even simpler... (4, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513779)

Weedkiller + Green paint. Mix. Apply.

Re:Keep it Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513868)

Step 5: Profit!

Robot Lawnmower (3, Funny)

dangerz (540904) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513656)

Try looking at something like this: .s html

I think the kill switch should be completely seperate from the entire system though. That way if other things fail, the kill switch can still be hit and no matter what goes on with the rest of the system it still kills the power.

Eventually, once it's all done, tweak it to see how fast you can make it work. Then make it so it can use a set of waypoints. After all that's done, enter it in the DARPA Grand Challenge and judging by last years results, you might actually have a chance!

Watch your bits (5, Insightful)

Stonefish (210962) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513657)

A friend's neighbour decided to build a ride on lawnmover. Problems arose when decided to take the mower for a test drive. The Blade guard was off and halfway through the test the seat collasped and he had to put his foot down. Needless to say he gets around really well on his new leg.

Think safety and just make it an RC vehicle first (3, Insightful)

Radical Rad (138892) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513663)

It sounded like you want to make it autonomous but I think you should just try to make it telerobotically controlled at first to get the kinks out of your hardware design, adding some H bridges, sensors, and a laptop later on. It might be safer to build onto a store bought mower with a clutch that can disengage the blade. That's uncommon though and you probably won't find one at a garage sale. So the cheapest and maybe safest route would be to make a mower using the weed whacker concept of a spinning spool of heavy nylon cord. If an accident happens at least you won't lose an arm.

Buy some help (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513683)

Too bad you guys don't have Mexicans over there in the UK. Did you check Ebay to see what a good used Mexican is selling for? Even the used ones can mow lawns fairly well.

there's a movie about this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513684)

The MowBot (1)

openSoar (89599) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513688)

You could get some ideas from this [] one.

Re:The MowBot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513749)

From their FAQ:

"Q: Is it safe?

A: Treat it like a traditional mower & don't forget the blade is very sharp. Make sure your garden is clear of any items lower than 15cm."

...a traditional mower has an operator, so this is a dodge. Hmm. The pet & child issue needs to be addressed here, not avoided. Anyone have keen ideas for this rather than knee-jerk Randisms?

Like after mapping the area, recognizing new objects and refusing to cut when they approach.

Be careful! (1)

real gumby (11516) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513708)

Let this fine film [] be an instructional video for what could go horribly wrong.

I was thinking more... (1)

Hecatonchires (231908) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513772)

Brain Dead [] for the climactic final scene...

Simple solution with no electronics involved (5, Funny)

JiffyJeff (693994) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513723)

My dad did this just to get a chuckle out of the neighbors:

1. Get out your self-propelled "push-style" mower.
2. Measure the cutting width
3. Place a post in the center of your yard that has a diameter equal to or less than the Cutting Width / pi.
4. Tie the inner wheel of the mower to a rope that is fixed on the post.
5. Start mower at edge of yard and as it winds itself around the post, it pulls itself inward toward the center.
6. When finished, trim the edges of the yard and you're done!

Easy cheesy, and it'll make your neighbors think you're bonkers!

Re:Simple solution with no electronics involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513899)

7. Then pick up the whole thing and put the stake further down your non-perfectly square garden
8. repeat 15 times
9. visit doctor to repair hernia/sliped disk

Next: (4, Funny)

omarius (52253) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513728)

AskSlashdot: Building a homebrew prosthetic foot?

simple ... (1)

polyp2000 (444682) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513744)

Why not dismantle one of those robotic hoovers and attatch it to a black and decker flymo?

If I recall... (1)

jcelgin (747984) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513758)

...they already tried something like this, but with cars... DARPA [] . :)

And, well, it turned out a miserable failure. But good luck!

My advice (2, Interesting)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513774)

First, build the logic. Take an RC car and use it as a lawnmower simulator. Connect your steering/avoidance circuitry to the car and see if the car acts like you want a lawnmower to.

Why? (2, Funny)

Trigulus (781481) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513798)

I know its a neat sounding project but you are totally missing out on the satisfaction of having your yard groomed to perfection by illegal immigrant labor. And for the cost of a robotic mower they weed,edge, sweep,fertilize,etc... every week for more than a year!

Lego Mindstorms? (4, Interesting)

ikekrull (59661) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513804)

First, get yourself a couple of Lego Mindstorms kits (so you have all the motors ans sensors you might require), and work up a useful collision-avoidin/path-cutting bot in your living room. maybe put it on a big sheet of paper, arm it with a felt-tip-pen, and tweak it's path-cutting algorithms like that.

Then, if you want to do more complex things - IR rangefinding, ultrasonics etc. strap a PalmPilot, Zaurus or some other PDS with IR on it and feed the midstorms controller unit with instructions from that.

Once you have it more-or-less foolproof (and you will probably want to run a wire round the maximum extents of your lawn and have a hall-effect or similar sensor pick up on it and kill the mower if it breaches that boundary) - then you can think about attaching a proper mower body and blade to it.

Then you'll probably want to port the whole thing to an embedded Linux u-Controller, and sell it for enormous profits.

Homebrew Mowing (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513849)

I've never considered mounting a home-brew fermentation unit on a mower. But I'm starting to like the idea.

technology... (1)

sinner0423 (687266) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513850)

The tech isn't there yet. There is something similar to this idea, it's a supposed "smart" floorvac called the Roomba [] which is just dumber than a pile of bricks. Not to say this is the leading technology in the field, but i'm fairly certain it's an indication as to where retail autonomics is at. Also remember the Darpa Project [] with autonomous ground vehicles, some of which, didn't even make it out the gate.

I hate to discourage your effort, but hey.. you get sun, you breathe fresh air not recycled by a case fan, and sweat off a few mountain dew pounds. It's a win-win situation!

Son, get off the computer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9513865)

Mow the lawn already!
-Your mom

My dad had automated lawn mowing.. (2, Funny)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513883)

... until I moved out.

Ask the USAF (2, Interesting)

john_smith_45678 (607592) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513888)

Maybe you could attach a mower to one of these [] .

USE the ISAAC32 Robot controller (1)

kff322 (752112) | more than 10 years ago | (#9513906)

I have had great experences using these to controll other robot rigs. Plus, there easy to program and can take a hell of a beating. Go to:
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