Automated commercial mowing trials
Interesting news today that Husqvarna are launching pilot schemes in Edinburgh and London to monitor the effectiveness of robotic mowing in public parks.
The company clearly believe this style of maintenance will play a significant role in the upkeep of our public green spaces of the future.
Thoughts such as these were very much in evidence at the company's second Silent City Conference which I attended in Stockholm at the end of last year.
The company used that event last October to launch a global report on what the urban park of 2030 will look like. Entitled 'Future Urban Parks Report' the survey that they commissioned was based on the responses of landscaping architecture students in 15 countries and theorised on the growth of green spaces in our urban centres.
The report offered thoughts on how these new parks of the future will look, their importance in the public's lives, and how they will be maintained by the support of sensors, robotics, drones and citizens.
Husqvarna asked these students, representing 60 different universities, that given urbanisation, sustainability and the rapid development of technology, what will the future urban park look like, what functions will it perform and how will it be looked after? Their intent here was to use the responses they gathered to influence the development of their future grounds maintenance products - and inevitably this seemed to mean greater usage of robotic mowers in commercial applications. Which we are beginning to see with today's news.
Husqvarna have another Silent City Conference coming up this October, this time aptly taking place in Edinburgh. The company have said the forthcoming event will be focused around "innovation and sustainability for cities around the world, looking at how they can improve professional landscaping and become more eco-friendly in urban areas."
So again no doubt that will be exploring the effectiveness of robotics in commercial applications. By then they may well have some data from the Edinburgh and London trials, as well ones which have taken place in Sweden, which they'll be able to share. Even if they haven't had time to fully analyse the data these trials have produced they should at least have anecdotal evidence from the guys on the ground who've been in charge of the robots, who'll know how they've been faring.
Questions last year amongst the delegates at the conference surrounding the use of robots, were concerned with how they would work in practice. Notions such as potential theft or vandalism of the machines were brought up. With these trials having been underway for a few months, hopefully initial answers to these sorts of concerns will be able to be addressed.
Also an indication might be offered on how the increased use of robots could impact on the staffing levels of turf professionals? There wasn't a sense last year that robots were being developed in order to take jobs away from skilled individuals - more so that they could be used as another tool in their arsenal.
There appears to be little doubt amongst industry experts that robots will be seen used in commercial applications in ever increasing numbers over the coming years. It will be interesting to monitor their development as they become more common sights in parks and urban green spaces - especially in relation to how many humans are also employed to be in the vicinity with machines in their hands.