Since I first heard about robotic mowing, the reality of it becoming mainstream always seemed similar to being a fan of a bad sports franchise. It’s always, “wait until next year.” Well, it seems that next year really could be the year – and if not this year, we’re getting very close. That was a takeaway from a virtual panel I moderated on the topic with Logan Fahey, CEO of Robin Autopilot; Tony Hopp, CEO of Mowbot; and Jen Lemcke, CEO of TurfBot.

Visit bit.ly/lawnrobotic to view the discussion. Here are a few more takeaways:

Brian Horn, editor, Lawn & Landscape

Education enhancements.

Hopp says there is still educating to be done on the topic, but he says when he started Mowbot 5 years ago, people laughed at the idea of a robot mowing a lawn. Now, consumers are taking it seriously, although he says some landscapers are still skeptical the machines can mow lawns effectively.

Don’t get stuck.

One of the main issues with robotic mowers is when they get stuck on hills, in holes or under things, etc. But all panelists said the software to detect obstacles is improving at a rapid rate.

“The next big development expected to come to market is the wireless technology for robotic mowers.”

Greener grow.

Robotic mowers can mow multiple times a week, which makes for a healthier lawn because it doesn’t put as much stress on the grass blades. Lemcke said she did a test with two lawns, side by side. Both were treated the same, but one was mowed by a regular mower and the other by a robomower. She said she was surprised at how much greener the robomowed lawn looked.

No stripes.

The mowers aren’t able to mow in a back-and-forth pattern, so it doesn’t produce those striped lawns that people love so much. “My answer to that is with a traditional company, they come in and they stripe your lawn and two days later, you have no stripes. Under a robotic mower, the property is consistently maintained, and it looks perfect all the time,” Fahey says.

Tired of wires.

The next big development expected to come to market is the wireless technology for robotic mowers. This will eliminate the need to install guides wires to create a boundary for the mowers. Fahey expects to see beta-testing from some manufacturers as soon as 2021 on specific types of properties. Hopp says for sports fields and open fields, the wireless technology is here now, but to have it successfully navigate around houses, bushes, trees, sidewalks is where the challenge lies. – Brian Horn