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Open AccessArticle

Autonomous Mowers Working in Narrow Spaces: A Possible Future Application in Agriculture?

Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Pisa, 56124 Pisa, Italy
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Agronomy 2020, 10(4), 553; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10040553
Received: 25 February 2020 / Revised: 27 March 2020 / Accepted: 8 April 2020 / Published: 10 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Precision Agriculture for Sustainability)
Autonomous mowers are becoming increasingly common in public and private greenspaces. Autonomous mowers can provide several advantages since these machines help to save time and energy and prevent operators from possible injuries. Current autonomous mowers operate by following random trajectories within areas defined by a shallow-buried boundary wire that has the purpose to generate an electro-magnetic field. Once the electro-magnetic field is perceived by the autonomous mower, the machine will stop and change direction. Mowing along random trajectories is considered an efficient solution to manage areas with a variable number of obstacles. In agriculture, autonomous technologies are becoming increasingly popular since they can help to increase both the quantity and quality of agricultural products by reducing productive cost and improving the production process. Thus, even autonomous mowers may be useful to carry out some of the agricultural operations that are highly time consuming. In fact, some autonomous mowers designed and realized to work in vineyards and home vegetable gardens are already available on the market. The aim of this study was to compare the work capacity of six autonomous mowers that move along random trajectories in areas with a high number of obstacles to assess if these machines may be employed in some agricultural contexts. The six autonomous mowers were split in three groups based on their size (large, medium, and small) and were left to work in two areas with equal number of obstacles but different layouts. The first area (Site A) had a square shape and an extension of 23.04 m2, in order to keep the autonomous mowers enclosed inside it. The second area (Site B) had a square shape and an extension of 84.64 m2, in order to have a part of the area with no obstacles. The layout and the size of the two areas affected the autonomous mowers performances in different ways. The six autonomous mowers working on Site A obtained similar results and higher performances compared to the same mowers working on Site B. All the autonomous mowers proved to be able to mow more than 89% of Site A after 2 h and more than 98% of Site A after 5 h. On Site B small size autonomous mowers obtained the best results mowing more than 83% of the area with obstacles after 2 h and more than 98% of the area with obstacles after 5 h. However, specific work settings allowed larger autonomous mowers to improve their efficiency, obtaining similar results compared to smaller autonomous mowers. View Full-Text
Keywords: robot; RTK-GPS; robots for agriculture; data processing robot; RTK-GPS; robots for agriculture; data processing
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Sportelli, M.; Pirchio, M.; Fontanelli, M.; Volterrani, M.; Frasconi, C.; Martelloni, L.; Caturegli, L.; Gaetani, M.; Grossi, N.; Magni, S.; Raffaelli, M.; Peruzzi, A. Autonomous Mowers Working in Narrow Spaces: A Possible Future Application in Agriculture? Agronomy 2020, 10, 553.

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