The days of harvester-size, exhaust-spewing mowers may be numbered at golf courses.
Indianapolis-based Precise Path Robotics is beta-testing this season on greens in Indiana and Florida its new line of RG3s, silent, battery-powered robo-mowers that trim grass as fast as conventional, manned mowers but without the collateral environmental damage.
The GPS-guided RG3 is whisper-quiet, eliminating noise pollution. Another plus - the invention can be used at night. Several industry studies show that nocturnal mowing reduces disease, decreasing the need for fungicides.
RG3s, with a list price of $29,500, only work on greens and have a lifespan of five to seven years. The company is developing a line of robotic fairway mowers and bunker rakers, spokeswoman Lauren Littlefield says. GPS technology in these robotic groundskeepers will allow superintendents to apply less water, fertilizer and pesticides, she says.
Precise Path Robotics was founded in 2004 and its robot competed in the DARPA Grand Challenge. Although it didn't win the contest, the company hopes to win over the nation's estimated 16,000 golf courses.
While robo-mowers promise to reduce the carbon footprints of golf courses, this may not be good news for the Carl Spacklers of the world, the militant, Dalai Lama-quoting groundskeeper in Caddyshack.
The RG3 can mow in "perfectly straight lines," says Littlefield, "which is virtually impossible for a human to do." Moreover, she adds, golf course owners "can reduce staff." What about gophers? Will robots eliminate those varmints?
As Spackler says, to kill the gopher, "You have to fall back on superior intelligence and superior firepower."