Smart Mower Brings Innovation and Vision to Roadside Management

An industrial mower equipped with computer vision and data analytics keeps roadsides clear of grass, while preserving insect habitats, saplings, and high-quality grass clippings. Drivers and property owners get real-time information and ecological insights.


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Image credit: Datacadabra

The US has more than 160,000 miles of roadways, and every year 24 billion pieces of litter lands on or alongside it. That can pose a problem for roadside mowing services. Litter can get clogged in the mower, gumming up the operation, or it can become a driving hazard.

One South Carolina lawmaker’s car window was destroyed by a piece of metal thrown by a mower; he pushed for legislation to clean up litter prior to mowing. If not collected in advance, trash can get shredded into tiny pieces that mix in with the grass clippings, making it ill-suited for the circular processing. The waste has to be removed prior to composting, an expensive task.

Hi-Tech Mower

Datacadabra, based in The Netherlands, decided to use artificial intelligence to solve this environmental problem. The company worked with OnLogic to develop the MowHawk, a cloud-based smart camera that sits on the cutter bar of a verge, or roadside, mower. The system is equipped with sensors and integrated computer vision capabilities to guide the driver.

The MowHawk camera is aimed ahead of the clippers. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence it identifies and avoids errant items in its path. In addition to litter, the MowHawk can spot and steer clear of animal and insect habitats, saplings, and invasive plant species. The ability to avoid disturbing those items maintains the natural biodiversity of the area. Invasive plant species, once cut, often multiply more quickly as their seeds are released and their clippings are spread as fertilizer in compost.

Under the Hood

The MowHawk smart vision camera system is built on the Karbon 700-SE, a customizable, ruggedized edge device from Intel® partner OnLogic. The device, powered by Intel® Core™ processor and Intel® Xeon® processor, features Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports and low power consumption. It is robust enough to tolerate heavy vibration, impact forces, and temperature swings, all required for exposure to environmental elements.

The Karbon 700-SE gathers the tracking and computer vision data. The information is processed in real-time and is shared with the camera orientation module. A screen inside the cab provides the driver with instructions that include mowing locations and patterns. Relevant data is extracted and sent to the cloud for in-depth analysis. Cloud-based access enables property owners to view the mowing progress in real time.

Environmentally Friendly Mowing

The smart camera identifies invasive plants and instructs the driver to mow around them. They can be collected on a second pass to ensure they aren’t mixed with the grass clippings. Grass height is measured, and clippings are analyzed and weighed on the go. Clippings can be classified and processed for healthy composting, mulch, or other circular use. Drivers and property owners can view the quality of the clippings through an online dashboard.

The high-tech mowing system provides insights to support biodiversity. It collects data about mowing patterns and frequency, as well as the animals, plants, and litter it encounters on its route. The data is analyzed and archived in a data warehouse. It can then be used to inform ecological policy decisions and circularity processes to improve environmental standards.

The MowHawk System currently is being used by the Dutch regional government to mow along roadsides and in ditches. 



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