Build a Remote-Controlled Lawn Mower

Gardening Home Robotics Technology
Build a Remote-Controlled Lawn Mower

It’s easy to make jokes about being lazy when talking about a robotic or remote-controlled lawn mower. Until it gets this hot. In this sort of blazing heat, sitting on an air conditioned porch while driving your mower around on what suddenly feels like the surface of Venus seems like the healthy and wise thing to do.

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Make: pal Blake Hodgson, from KC, MO, decided to tele-operate his yard duties by building this really rather simple RC mower. It’s basically the motor and cutting head mechanism from a cheap push mower with a new welded frame around it, scooter motors, and the needed radio and control electronics. Here’s the bill of materials that Blake used:

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1. Lots of angle iron and steel – I used 2″ angle iron, and in retrospect, it was a little bit of overkill. It is strong enough for me to ride though.

2. Mobility scooter motors – There are a lot of used motors on eBay and they are all pretty similar. If you can get them with the tires, it will save you a lot of time.

3. Lawn mower – Find a cheap push mower. Any mower should work but make sure it is reliable and starts.

4. RC remote – I used a Tower Hobbies System 3000 and it works well.

5. Other electronics – There are a few ways to do this but I used an Arduino pro mini, a Raspberry Pi, a Sabertooth 2×25 motor controller, a relay, and a webcam. More on this later.

6. 2 Batteries – Pretty much any 12v car or marine battery should work. 2 trickle chargers fill up the batteries in between mowings.

7. Beer hat- Optional, but highly recommended.

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Blake’s build is very similar to the RC mower we featured on the cover of Make: Volume 24. You can see the full plans for that build here in the Make: Projects section. “That project was very helpful and part of the inspiration for me,” says Blake. “There are a few things I did differently with the motor drivers, fail safes, and the build as well as adding a Raspberry Pi and webcam.”

Blake’s project page includes a link to the CAD files for his design as well as a Github page for the Arduino code. The RBpi is on-board to allow the webcam to stream video.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn

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