Ellsworth embraces innovation through use of robotic mowers

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brittany Kenney
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
With warmer weather comes the need for consistent landscaping, especially over larger areas common to the Great Plains. Ellsworth is no exception, but with varying states of weather and manning issues, consistency can be hard to achieve. To combat this, the base is embracing innovation by using robotic mowers in certain areas across the base.

Enter the Renubot mower by Renu Robotics and two smaller Husqvarna mowers, all operating autonomously and under the watchful eye of the 28th Civil Engineering Squadron.

“We work closely with the Mission Support Group for innovation projects,” said Eric Haakendahl, 28th CES operations flight deputy. “That’s how this one started last year.”

According to Haakendahl, the base kicked off the project with a Husqvarna Automower 550H that they’ve tested with the football field, as it can mow up to 1.25 acres at a time. They’ve since ordered an additional small mower that can mow up to 35 acres, while the larger Renubot mower can cover up to 100 acres on a single charge.

“We already have a five-year contract for mowing on base, so our goal for now is to test these mowers and see how they work for us,” said Haakendahl. “If we can get funding from re-negotiated contracts in a few years to purchase more of these mowers, it can save a tremendous amount of money and manpower.”

For those concerned about safety issues with a self-operational mower, the Renubot has several features enabled to prevent collisions with an obstacle in its path, including a camera that is constantly scanning the environment around the mower.

During this testing phase, the mower is only operating at night in areas around the base lakes to allow the machine to become familiar with its operational area, as well as to protect cars and pedestrians during the times it may need to cross a walking path.

For now, Haakendahl is optimistic about these mowers and their potential for the overall look of Ellsworth’s grounds.

“The goal is to get more of the base consistently maintained,” said Haakendahl. “Consistency will make the base look that much better and cleaner.”