Did I mention that I like robots? I do. They have always been one of the coolest parts of science fiction. Though the reality of robots these days is a little more prosaic than those in the fiction I grew up on, they still get me excited. Especially when they can do jobs for me that I’m less than fond of. Like mowing the lawn.
I am not one of these people who takes great pride in their lawn: you only have to see the unevenly laid and multi-coloured morass in my back garden to realise that. But it needs mowing and so occasionally I have to heave a (borrowed) mower around the garden. ‘Fly’ it does not.
So when I spotted the Husqvarna Automower 305 at the Gadget Show Live this year I had to have a go, and the Swedish company was kind enough to loan me one for a few weeks.
Husqvarna installed the Automower 305 for me in the back garden. It’s not a complicated job but the way they go about it tells you something both about the company and the target market for these devices. This is the posh German car end of the gardening market: quality rather than ostentation; a stretch but not out of the reach of ordinary mortals.
The newest and most basic model that I tried runs a random series of routes inside a fixed boundary, defined by a thin wire that gets staked to the ground. This sounds quite intrusive but it is pegged so tight to the ground that the grass soon grows over it and it disappears. The robot detects a very small current running around the wire and so knows not to go beyond it. Another wire guides the robot back to its docking station where it recharges automatically between runs.
Each mowing session is triggered either manually, or more likely by a timer. The Automower is designed to keep a lawn trimmed to a fixed level rather than clearing large swathes, so you want it going out pretty frequently. Fortunately it uses very little electricity so this won’t cost you a fortune – very little at all in fact. The Automower did an admirable job on my little jungle, despite the concrete poking out and the unevenness of the ground. After a few days, the half of the garden we had set up with the Automower for comparison was incredibly neat. When I mowed the other side by hand, it showed exactly how hard it is to get such an even finish.
The Automower is not cheap: currently £999.99 on special offer. But you have to take a number of things into account when considering this price. Firstly, a petrol mower that would deliver the same sort of finish and allow you to maintain the same sort of area (up to 500 square metres) would be expensive to buy and much more expensive to run. Secondly, and more importantly for today’s time poor individual, you don’t have to give up hours each month to keep your lawn maintained.
As someone who feels perpetually short of time, that for me is the biggest bonus and the reason that I would love to have robots like this as a permanent fixture in my home.