Welcome to Zupt Autonomous Products and Technology's premier blog series. This series is an introduction to autonomous mowing. Over the next few weeks, we will share information topics impacting your day-to-day operation. Such topics as Safety, Increased Production, and Sensor Packages will be covered, as well as a variety of other features built into our autonomous mower “Nomad.” In the future, you can expect to see Stories from our Engineers and Stories from the Field as part of additional Blog series.
Before we get started on the technology, we would like to introduce you to ZAPT. Who is ZAPT?
Early last year, the entire team at Zupt (www.Zupt.com), including our engineers and surveyors, brainstormed where to take the intellectual property Zupt has been utilizing in deep-water offshore oil and gas operations for the past 15 years. Zupt’s background is in integrating complex positioning, navigation, and imaging technology in high-risk offshore operations working to water depths of over 2 miles. Applying our knowledge from this background, we knew we could build a “brain” to allow an all-terrain vehicle to work autonomously in all conditions. As a result, ZAPT, Zupt Autonomous Products and Technologies, was launched.
After researching lawn care crew productivity and the types of tools commercial crews need, our team developed a version of our “brain” to deliver optimal productivity in any condition. We attached this “brain” to a four-wheel drive, four-wheel steer autonomous mower that can transform from a 60” highly productive wide swath mower to a slim 32” mower. This size transformation allows it to transit through gates, between trees and fences, or other narrow areas that need mowing. We call this advanced mowing system Nomad. Nomad is an autonomous or robotic mower for the commercial landscape maintenance market. We understandably receive many questions about this “new” technology. In response to these questions and interests, we have assembled this Blog Series as an introduction to the topic and the associated technologies and language used to describe this engineering field.
As noted, our product is called Nomad; other companies are also introducing similar robotic or autonomous commercial mowers. As a brief introduction to the conventional mowing capabilities, Nomad can move and mow in any direction and can cut between a 60” (1.5m) wide swath down to a 30” (0.76m) wide swath of grass via a conventional “rotary” mowing deck. Nomad is gas-powered (38HP internal combustion engine), and the primary traction is provided through hydraulic ground drive motors within wheel rims fitted with conventional 18” turf tires. The steering for Nomad is provided independently at each wheel. Each wheel can rotate through 360° for flexible path planning and steering. The mowing deck under Nomad is a conventional three-spindle deck containing three 20.25” (0.51m) blades. The blades are actuated by deck mounted hydraulic blade drive motor. The height of the deck is controlled by a linear actuator enabling accurate mowing height between 1.5” (40mm) to 5.5” (140mm).
Perhaps the correct way to define Nomad is a “fully autonomous robotic lawnmower.” We tend to describe Nomad as an autonomous mower in the same way that the autonomous automotive industry describes the next generation of truly autonomous cars – they do not need a driver and contain the technology to make decisions as they proceed to work in the defined area. An autonomous mower should be able to safely deliver highly productive mowing within the target area that the crew wishes to mow without any human interaction during mowing operations. Autonomous is robotic technology that can respond to the real world with minimal or no human intervention. We do not use the term “robotic” to describe Nomad, which means human intervention is involved at some point. Yes, Nomad is a robot, but it is a fully autonomous robot that does not depend on human intervention to operate. Therefore, we describe Nomad as an autonomous mower, not a robotic mower.
In our next blog, we will introduce you to the technology designed for Nomad, starting with the Safety protocols.