Robot tractor to mow grass, clear snow, and help university landscaping crew during gaps in seasonal staff.
A bright orange, self-driving robot is mowing grass at Utah State University this summer. The university’s landscape and maintenance team is evaluating how a robot tractor built by Left Hand Robotics can help with repetitive outdoor jobs and seasonal gaps in workforce.
Jason Petterborg, mowing crew lead at USU, says they manage about 100 acres of turf at the Logan, Utah campus. USU is trying out the all-season robot tractor to mow grass during the 2020 growing season and to clear snow on sidewalks come wintertime.
The robot’s first ongoing job assignment on campus: Keep a 7-acre, cross-country field of mostly Kentucky bluegrass mowed to a 3-inch height. The USU crew outfitted its 2020 RT-1000, the latest model from Left Hand Robotics, with a 63-inch rotary mower deck. The field is being mowed a few times a week.
After three months on the job, the USU crew is happy with robot’s performance. “It’s a beautiful cut. It always looks good. The mower’s doing a fantastic job. It’s always cutting well,” said Petterborg.
The RT-1000 uses high-accuracy GNSS RTK to guide the gas-powered machine along its preassigned mowing path. The robot also features on-board cameras and safety sensors to detect obstacles and people while operating. To prevent grass damage and driving ruts, the landscape crew set-up four different mowing patterns for the robot to follow.
The USU team plans to expand the robot’s mowing acreage later this summer. They will also use the robot during seasonal gaps when temporary staff (mostly high school and college students) aren’t available to work as many hours.
“(The robot) gives us manpower when we don’t have the manpower available, said Shane Richards, Landscape Operation and Maintenance manager at USU. He said the machine can work during more convenient evening hours when classes aren’t in session too (loud machines can disrupt professor lectures). No staff has been replaced by the robot, Richards added.
USU has leased the RT-1000 from RMT Equipment in Salt Lake City. The university will analyze the operation and maintenance costs for the robot later this year.
See photos and learn more about how USU is using the RT-1000 on its main campus at lefthandrobotics.com/usu.
About Utah State University
Founded in 1888, Utah State University is a land-grant, public research university with three regional campuses, one comprehensive regional campus, and 28 Extension offices. Utah State enrolls 27,679 students from 78 countries. Learn more at www.usu.edu