What is a Robomower?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A robomower is a robotic lawn mowing machine designed to automatically trim grass at a specific day and time. The mowing unit itself uses a rechargeable battery pack to power a set of self-propelling wheels and three mulching blades. High-end models can have the equivalent cutting power of a 5.5 horsepower gas push mower. Because the blades turn the clipped grass into a fertilizing powder, there is usually no need for bagging or raking afterwards.

Conventional push mowers are typically much cheaper to purchase than robotic mowers.
Conventional push mowers are typically much cheaper to purchase than robotic mowers.

Robomower owners do have to perform a few chores before the unit can be allowed to mow. A generous amount of wiring must be staked around the perimeter of the yard, much like the wires of a fenceless dog restraint system. The homeowner wraps the wire around a small stake every 10 feet (3 meters) or so. Curves in the landscape may require more wire and more staking than anticipated, so owners should plan accordingly. It is better to have all the wiring on hand rather than wait several weeks for delivery. In a pinch, any 18 to 22 gauge copper wiring could be used for augmentation. This wire should be placed at ground level, where growing grass will eventually render it virtually invisible. The entire grid is energized with a battery unit while the mower is working.

Robomowers have attachments that make it easier to bag grass clippings.
Robomowers have attachments that make it easier to bag grass clippings.

Once the perimeter wire has been properly positioned, the device should be fully charged with a special charging unit connected to a standard household plug. The unit itself can require two people to lift it into place. This is not a lightweight robotic toy. Once the wheels have been adjusted for the preferred cutting height, one push of a button will set the robomower in motion. Some may find the initial mowing pattern to be a little unorthodox, but the unit follows a grid pattern which will eventually pass over every section of the yard inside the perimeter wire.

If the mower encounters a perimeter wire, an onboard computer will calculate its position and immediately back away. The same holds true for foreign objects like trees, people, rose bushes and baseballs. If any part of the robomower's 360 degree bumper system is touched, the onboard computer will immediately seek another path. Owners should always check the yard for obvious debris such as sticks and pine cones, but an occasional encounter with natural obstacles shouldn't hurt the blades.

One obvious area of concern for would-be owners is safety. After all, a powerful set of blades will be running through the yard without human guidance. The designers of the robomower system have incorporated many safety features. The unit will shut off instantly if turned over on its back. The blades are never exposed while in operation — if a child wanders into the path of a robomower, the bumper will detect him or her and change direction. Should someone attempt to steal the unit between assignments, an alarm will sound. The operational buttons and programmer have child locks to prevent accidental usage.

Some owners of a may have to do some trimming around the perimeter of their yards, but the yard itself should be perfectly cut every time. When the robomower has finished for the day, it will automatically return to the recharging unit and await the next assignment.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


There are plenty of different manufacturers of robotic mowers, but Robomow stood out based on their proven track record. I bought one last year and I couldn't be happier. I chose the RM 510 series, a model from 2012, because they kept the same design practically unchanged for over a decade, which is proven to be very reliable. They also significantly lowered the price of all their mowers this year.

I have a largish back yard, and they don't tell you this, but their smallest and cheapest mower is actually capable of cutting way more area than they say it can. They claim 500m2 coverage on the RM510, but it can do this on the daily if needed.

Robomow is powered by a pair of 12 volt, 12ah batteries, said to last for several years with proper care and wintering. When they need replacing they can be found practically anywhere, being just standard emergency light/APS batteries that cost 20 bucks each to replace. A full charge gets you 3.5 hours non-stop automatic mowing.

Robomow will use, on average, less than 10 dollars per season in electricity. An ordinary mower would consume plenty of expensive gasoline in a season, and requires regular oil changes, unlike Robomow.

Worried about poor build quality? Units built until 2013 are built like a tank. It's no surprise these machines were, in fact, developed by two former military engineers. Many users report their Robomow lasted up to 10 years, with very little maintenance other than a new blade and batteries. They also hold their value well so you can decide to re-sell it later and make some money!

There have been reports of problems in the past with some pre-2009 units, but their product is always updated with the needed improvements every year. For example, there are reports of the perimeter wire switchboard failing on older units but they have since added a weatherproof silicon coating to the circuit board to prevent this. Noisy gearboxes were replaced with smooth running rubber drive belts for a quieter machine.

I can't speak for the newly redesigned 2014 models that just came out, because the online videos just don't look too impressive to me. The new models seem to spend a lot of time turning in place, looking confused as to what to do next. Besides that, they just look flimsy and cheap compared to mine. But they added Bluetooth! Whatever.

Anyway, I hope I was able to shed some light on Robomow's capabilities. Mowing the lawn is not my idea of an amusing pastime, unless I'm watching a robot do it.


My only concern is that robomowers might be difficult to service and repair. Right now it is pretty easy for even amateur mechanics to maintain and repair their lawnmowers. Who knows how expensive robomower parts are and what kind of technical expertise it takes to install them. I've worked in lawn care for a long time and I can tell you that these machines really take a beating. It is only a matter of time before something breaks down. If we only used robomowers we might end up with a bunch of broken robots that nobody has the money or the expertise to fix.


I agree with @nextcorrea that this is a really exciting idea. What really caught my attention is that the robomower does not use any gasoline. It runs on a special robomower battery that is charged up just like any reusable battery. Think about how many gallons of gas get burned up every day by conventional mowers. The robomower is a handy green alternative and I hope they become the norm in the near future.


It sounds like they still have some work to do before the robomower runs perfectly but what an exciting idea this is. There are few chores more tedious and back breaking than mowing the lawn. I would happily pass this duty off to a robot.

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