It is finally happening. Kind of. iRobot will launch in 2019 its Terra robot lawn mower. The company has not announced specific availability or pricing, but it did say the Terra robot lawn mower will be available this year in Germany and as a beta program in the U.S.
This is a much-anticipated announcement — and worst-kept secret — that the Bedford, Mass.-based Roomba maker has been coy about for years. There has been talk of an iRobot mower since at least 2006. When asked to explain the beta program in the U.S., an iRobot spokesperson said details will be available closer to the start of the program. But a full launch in Germany and a beta launch stateside shows iRobot is more confident in markets outside of the U.S., as it should be with this product.
The main difference between the Terra robot lawn mower and the competition is ease of use, something iRobot knows a thing or two about. Instead of having to bury and run boundary wires throughout a yard, iRobot claims that it will simplify the process for consumers.
Users need to place wireless beacons around their yards and manually drive the Terra robot lawn mower around to teach it the layout. iRobot said the beacons can be pushed or hammered into the ground. They need to remain in place throughout the mowing season. Terra uses the beacons to calculate its position in the yard. The robot will operate autonomously after the initial training run. This is similar to how many autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) map logistics facilities.
Another benefit of Terra is that it mows in straight, back-and-forth lines, the same way most humans would. Surprisingly, many robot lawn mowers do not work that way. If the battery runs low, the Terra robot lawn mower returns to its charging base to recharge and picks up where it left off. It is compatible with iRobot’s HOME App, so users can adjust Terra’s mowing height and mowing schedule.
“iRobot is building an ecosystem of robots and technologies that help people do more both inside and outside of the home,” said Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot. “The robot mower segment is well established in EMEA and has tremendous room for growth in other markets, including North America.”
iRobot was tight-lipped about many of Terra’s specs, but it did shed light on its safety features: “Terra has several built-in safety mechanisms so that the blades will stop rotating if the robot is ever tilted or lifted. The handle of the robot is linked to a lift sensor, so that when the handle is lifted, the robot will turn off. A tilt sensor will detect if the robot tilts to an abnormal degree, shutting down the robot if triggered.
“Additionally, if the robot bumps into an object, the robot will recognize this and changes its direction, and if the robot is ever delocalized — meaning it is not completely sure where it is in the yard — it will turn off to ensure that it will remain in the designated lawn area at all times. There is also a prominent red ‘STOP’ button on the top of the robot. Terra is also equipped with theft-protection software.”
Wireless communication system
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted iRobot a waiver for its wireless communication system. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) filed comments to the FCC that said the radio frequency the robot lawn mower operated on would interfere with radio astronomy operations. However, the FCC authorized iRobot’s request because it did not “frustrate” the FCC’s Section 15.250(c) rule.
“We find that granting this waiver is in the public interest because it will enable iRobot to market its robotic lawn mower without posing a significant risk of harmful interference to authorized users of the radio spectrum,” the FCC said at the time.
“The FCC’s assessment agrees with our analysis that the technology will not have a negative impact on radio astronomy,” iRobot said at the time. “The FCC’s decision will allow iRobot to continue exploring the viability of wideband, alongside other technologies, as part of a long-term product exploration effort in the lawn mowing category.”
Jumpstarting U.S. robot lawn mower market
The U.S. robot lawn mower market is way behind other countries, including many in Europe, which the Associated Press reports has a $300 million robot lawn mower industry. iRobot is hoping to accomplish with robot lawn mowing what it accomplished with robot vacuuming. But getting there might be more difficult this time with Terra.
When Roomba launched in 2002, the only other robot vacuum to have ever hit the market was Electrolux’s Trilobite, which was introduced in 1996. It ultimately did not work well and was discontinued.
iRobot essentially created the robot vacuum market. With Terra, iRobot is entering a market with heavy competitors, including John Deere, Honda, Husqvarna and more. These are companies known for their landscaping products that just happen to have robot lawn mowers. iRobot is a robotics company trying to break into lawn care. We’ll be watching to see how this plays out.
iRobot did not share the price of Terra. Not knowing the specs of Terra, such as price, target yard size, etc makes it difficult to compare to other robot lawn mowers. Husqvarna has a line of six robot lawn mowers that range from $1,500 for a quarter acre cutting capacity to $3,500 for a full acre.
Husqvarna’s robot lawn mowers predate the Roomba. Husqvarna’s first robot lawn mower was introduced in Sweden in 1998. Sales were slow initially, but the company said the concept began to gain traction in 2005, and in January 2017, it claims it had sold 1 million units, the majority of which were in Europe. Husqvarna just started marketing to the U.S. in 2018, which shows just how far behind, unaware or uninterested American consumers have been.
Paul Bradley says
Thanks you for reviewing and writing about these new devices. As a company with our own brand (or more accurately, re-brand) of household robotic devices for the Australian market, too often we see reviews being written about how new devices fall short of expectations. And this comes about because they are not being used properly by the reviewers. But it is always easier to blame the device.
I can say that we are sanguine about the benefits of the wireless boundary concept. Having a laid boundary wire may be relatively low-tech, but it provides benefits (safety, security, reliability). Also, the boundary is only one aspect of the overall system. We try to emphasise electrical and device safety above everything else, as these devices are autonomous.
If a device isn’t simple enough for the product reviewer to figure out that would be a legitimate concern for the end user. It is easy to blame the user, but if it is a common complaint then it is bad design.
You know, seems to me that they would want to get this thing out for lawn care season, which has already started. Perhaps I am wrong.
Steve Crowe says
More important than the timing, iRobot wants to make sure it works well and delivers value. As we said in the piece, this robot lawnmower has been a long time coming for iRobot. No need to rush along when it’s been on their mind for the last 13-plus years.
I have a large lawn of several acres. Can I easily “sync” 2 or 3 terras together on the property to each manager their own quadrant so to speak? Also, after exhausting its range and going back to charge, will the robot just pick up where it left off with a fresh charge?
IRobot i7+ is so convenient that I think that this lawn mower will be astonishing. I just installed a Husqvarna. Guess I should have been waiting.
Alyson Brignac says
How is the Husqvarna? I am ready to pull the trigger on the 550H.
Gone Tropical says
I have the vacuum Roombas over the years since they were available in the US, and love them. So it is not that I am not interested, but living in Florida with it’s thick and high St. Augustine Grass, I don’t want to spend 2k+ just to find out the Terra (or any other robot lawn mower) cannot handle this type of grass. European grass is fine like hair and kept fairly short. I can only hope the iRobot Terra takes the St. Augustine Grass into consideration so as not to run out of juice after 15 minutes mowing.
Alyson Brignac says
I have 5 Roombas . . . and I need a few Terras now . . . given I have a 3 acre yard. I have “signed up” for the Beta testing . . . to no avail . . . but am thinking about contacting someone in Germany to purchase one and ship to the US. The lack of information is testing my patience. I have had my finger on the trigger of 2 – $3800 Husqvarna 550Hs for several weeks now . . . and it is difficult to keep waiting. My loyalty to the IRobot brand is the only thing keeping me from becoming a Husqvarna customer. But cannot wait much longer.
Lisa Roads says
How do you sign up for beta testing USA?
There is so little information available about the Terra, and so much obvious interest. I found the user manual and external photos interesting. February 20th of 2020 is the release of the internal photos. Maybe we’ll have more to go on closer to that date, here’s to hoping!
Roger Galliett says
User manual https://fccid.io/UFERLA-Y1/User-Manual/User-Manual-4413969
Robot lawn mowers can be set-up to mow one section at a time. In this configuration, you set the robot lawn mower down, click a few buttons and off he goes to mow the designated section. Then you can move him to the next section for more mowing and so on. Choosing this method enables one to purchase a less expensive robot for a larger yard, saving money.
The date of arrival seems to keep moving out but I need one now. Originally heard late 2019. March 2020 and no supplier, price or date!
I’m tempted to go for the mid level Worx Landroid (1K) vs the rather expensive Husqvarna (3.5K).
But, Id certainly love to avoid burying the line. If I only had a DATE!
Glenn Zwiers says
We have a I7+ roomba which is great. We had been considering Husqvarna and awaiting for the new Terra, but both brands seemed pretty expensive and we just wanted something simple and cost effective.
We ended up buying a MoeBot 800 for only $550USD. No bells and whistles like Husky, but it cuts well once set up and we have had no issues. Support has been great from the company selling them https://www.moebot.com.au