Does the robot operate without a driver? Is it being driven by remote control?
The SnowBot is autonomous, meaning it is “self-driving”. It navigates by following a pre-programmed path. All SnowBots can be monitored via the cloud-based Robot Operations Center (ROC) that provides real-time status. You can access the ROC Dashboard from a computer’s web browser or from your smartphone via the mobile app.
Is the robot using GPS as it clears the sidewalks?
Yes, the SnowBot uses GPS and other navigation sensors to follow the pre-programmed path it has downloaded from the cloud-based Robot Operations Center (ROC). Even if GPS coverage is spotty, the SnowBot can rely on its other sensors to continue on the path until GPS connectivity is regained. However, paths must have a reasonably good GPS signal. This means that the robot needs a 360 degree view of the sky. Temporary and infrequent obstacles are usually not a problem, but extended paths with obstructed views of the sky are not ideal.
How does the robot know where to go in order to stay on the path or sidewalk?
During the off-season, the local operator walks along sidewalks and pathways with a GPS Path Collection Tool (PCT). It captures accurate location data down to the inch. This captured data is uploaded to the Robot Operations Center (ROC) where it is transformed into a Path Program. This stored Path Program can then be accessed by the SnowBot when there is a snow event.
Does someone need to watch the robot and monitor it as it’s operating?
No, there is no need to have someone supervise the SnowBot as it runs on a job site — they only need to start it from an app on their mobile phone or have it start at a pre-programmed time from a pre-arranged location. The SnowBot gets its pre-programmed path instructions from the cloud-based Robot Operations Center (ROC) where it is constantly sending real time telemetry data. If the robot encounters an issue (e.g., an obstacle that is not moving, low fuel, etc.) then a notification will be sent to the local operator and will be made available via the ROC. In these cases, a local operator would then need to resolve the problem.
Does a robot clear snow from a sidewalks better than traditional shoveling?
Part-time labor is expensive and challenging to mobilize when a snow storm hits. A SnowBot can be ready immediately, and is ideally suited for repetitive and physically taxing snow clearing.
The SnowBot features a commercial-grade rotating brush that can clear walkways and paths that are 3 feet wide or wider. A rotating snow removal brush is generally accepted as the best method for clearing snow down to the pavement. It automatically adjusts to sweep snow to the left or right side of the path based on the preferred sweeping direction for each section of path as it follows the program. Narrow paths and steps may still require some hand shoveling.
Ideally, the robot gets out ahead of a storm so that the snow does not get too deep before the SnowBot get there. However, once the snow reaches over 4″ deep, the robot may not be able to sweep all the way to the pavement and may therefore require additional runs over the same path to achieve the desired results.
What is the work equivalent between a SnowBot Pro and workers with shovels?
On a standard flat walkway, a single SnowBot Pro can clear the same amount of snow in one hour as 8.6 people with shovels in the same time.
Does the SnowBot require special training or expertise?
The SnowBot is designed to be easy to use. Minimal training is needed to use the smartphone-based app used to maneuver the SnowBot into its starting position and ensure the correct path following program is loaded. Then the local operator on site can easily start the SnowBot from the app on their mobile phone.
What types of properties is the SnowBot ideally suited for?
It is ideal for those properties with service contracts with 1-2″ snowfall thresholds or zero tolerance SLAs that have many paved walking paths and sidewalks. Properties that require shoveling because large equipment cannot maneuver in smaller spaces are especially well-suited for a SnowBot.
What happens if someone or something is obstructing the sidewalk? Will the robot stop?
Yes. The SnowBot employs a multitude of sensors that are constantly looking for unexpected obstacles such as people, cars, or other objects.
The SnowBot will pause until a person has passed, and sensors will detect any other unexpected obstacles and stop. The operator gets an alert from the cloud-based Robot Operations Center (ROC), and can get more information, including real-time photos from the ROC Dashboard. Depending on the obstacle, a local operator can either remove the obstacle (e.g., a trash can in the way) or can manually drive the robot around the obstacle.
Can the robot apply salt or deicers?
Salt and other solid or liquid (coming soon) deicers can be applied automatically both before a snow event, and after the brush clears a walkway. An optional attachment can be easily added to the SnowBot to perform this task.
Can I know where the robot is operating at all times?
Yes. The SnowBot is in constant contact (using the Internet over a cellular network) with our cloud-based Robot Operations Center (ROC), sending real-time location data and images. As a user, you can monitor all your SnowBots via a web browser application that is connected to our ROC. This provides a dashboard view of all your SnowBots with the ability to monitor them in real time and view location and job data. The dashboard information is also accessible via our mobile app for on-site monitoring.
Does the SnowBot provide a report when the snow clearing is complete?
At the end of a task, all the data that was collected by the SnowBot is compiled into a single, timestamped job report. This report includes start and stop times, before and after images, weather data, and other useful data. All data is cryptographically signed by the SnowBot to ensure data in the report is not fabricated or revised. If needed, these reports can be provided to insurance companies or government agencies in the event detailed job report data is needed.
How is the SnowBot transported?
The SnowBot Pro is about the size of a ride-around lawn mower, and therefore can be transported via traditional open or enclosed trailers.
How does the robot stay on the sidewalk and not go off course?
The SnowBot relies on multiple sensors to ensure it follows its pre-programmed path. This includes GPS with centimeter level accuracy, and a digital compass plus other sensors to monitor the movement of the SnowBot. These sensors work together filling in any missing information if one (e.g. GPS) becomes unavailable for a short period of time. This redundancy ensures the SnowBot is safely following the programmed path.
Since the robot relies on GPS as its primary form of navigation, it must have a reasonably good view of the sky. Paths where the sky is obstructed for long stretches are not ideal for the robot and may not work.
Does the robot clear the entire sidewalk in a single pass?
The robot’s included 46-inch wide, 16-inch diameter brush clears all snow from a sideway up to 46-inches wide from edge to edge in a single pass. We will also sell additional brushes at varying widths for wider paths.
How well does the robot clean?
A rotating snow removal brush is generally accepted as the best method for clearing snow down to the pavement. The SnowBot features a commercial-grade rotating brush that automatically adjusts to sweep snow to the left or right side of the pathway based on the preferred sweeping direction for each section of pathway as it follows the program.
Does the SnowBot eliminate the need to have shovelers when a storm hits?
This depends on the characteristics of the job site. Since the SnowBot is unable to traverse multiple consecutive steps, a shoveler may be necessary to clear snow from steps manually. If there are areas on the site too narrow for the SnowBot (less than 3 feet wide), these areas may require hand shoveling. Generally speaking, the SnowBot will not eliminate the need for all shovelers, but it will reduce the amount of manual labor needed to clear paths.
How does replacing part-time shovelers and other manual labor with a SnowBot save money?
The fully-loaded cost of a shoveler includes: recruitment cost, the cost to activate an individual for a snow event, the cost to pick up and transport the laborer, the laborer’s hourly wage, worker overhead costs (e.g., taxes, insurance), and the cost of ongoing HR management and job site supervision of these workers. If a SnowBot can replace 80% of your temporary workforce, 80% of costs related to shoveling and other manual activities (e.g., snow blowing) can be eliminated.
What’s more, virtually all of these costs are recurring season after season. A SnowBot Pro, on the other hand, is a one-time, up-front capital expenditure that can be depreciated like all your other equipment.
Additionally, the SnowBot performs additional tasks like work documentation, simultaneous de-icing treatment and pre-treatments. Each of these activities have costs proportional to the time it takes to perform them. There is virtually no additional costs when the SnowBot does them.
How can a SnowBot help reduce the business risk from Slip & Fall incidents?
The Robot Operations Center (ROC) is our cloud-based application. The ROC automatically stores detailed reports that include snow removal job data, and before and after timestamped photos that are often mandated for insurance coverage and can be invaluable in the event of Slip and Fall litigation.
Also, because the SnowBot can be deployed as soon as a storm starts – with no additional costs – you can provide your customers with a cleaner and thus safer result. Why wait for the snow to pile up in the first place when you can get out in front of it with no additional costs to you (other than the cost of gas)?
What other ways can the SnowBot Pro reduce business risk and costs?
One of the largest operating expenses in the snow industry is insurance. Since the SnowBot Pro can reduce the size of your temporary workforce, your payroll taxes and workman’s insurance costs can also be reduced. Adding more technology while reducing payroll expenses leads to a more favorable tax situation; although you have larger capital expenses you are dramatically reducing operating expenses.
From a business perspective, you are able to provide a higher quality product by having the SnowBot begin clearing paths as soon as the snow begins to fall since the cost is the cost of the gas needed to power the robot. This means that snow never has a chance to pile up on the sidewalks in the first place leading to cleaner and safer paths. This all adds up to reduced business risk and happier customers.
When will SnowBots be available to purchase?
The SnowBot Pro is available starting in December 2018. You can either purchase the product or you can try the product thru our Try-then-Buy program.
How much does a SnowBot cost?
A deployment of the SnowBot Pro will require, in addition to the robot, the broom, a single path collection tool and a GPS base station. We offer the SnowBot Pro Starter Kit which provides all these pieces at a single discounted price (limit one per customer). Support, maintenance and functionality such as remote monitoring, autonomous path following, mobile monitoring, report generation and storage are part of an annual subscription – we offer various subscription levels that include additional features and support coverage. Finally, the de-icer attachment is an optional add-on.
You can reserve a SnowBot Pro for the 2018 season on our reservations page with a $1000 refundable deposit.