FireFly Automatix premiers M220-AV autonomous field mower
FireFly Automatix, Inc. announced initial customer implementation of the M220-AV, the company’s first fully autonomous field mower, which has been in development since 2018. The new AV (Autonomous Vehicle) version of the popular 22-foot M220 for turfgrass production is premiering as a hybrid diesel-electric vehicle that takes the company’s proven features to an entirely new level of automation.
FireFly has selected a limited number of turf farms for eligibility of its first commercially available M220-AV’s. The program has officially commenced with the delivery of the first pilot production vehicle this month to Prime Sod, in Kopperl, Texas, with additional orders booked through early Summer 2023.
“Teach and Repeat” Autonomous Mowing
Operators program the current M220-AV models through “teach and repeat” by driving a path in “teach” mode, then bringing the mower to the start of the path and telling it to “repeat” without a driver, allowing the mower to autonomously repeat the path over and over. Turf farms generally mow their fields one or two times per week and farms may range from several hundred acres to the largest farms over ten thousand requiring productivity and scale. This repetitive activity saves labor and is an ideal place for the utilization of autonomy and robotics. The new model uses a powerful controller to coordinate the robust suite of LiDAR sensors, cameras and GPS receiver that ensure safe and accurate operation of the M220-AV. As safety measures, the vehicle stops when it detects objects in its path or loses connectivity. Alerts notify operators when the mower is stopped and provide camera views to allow operators to intervene and operation to resume safely and quickly.
As a significant update to earlier models of the M220, the M220-AV features the following:
• A high-performance 125 hp turbo-charged hybrid diesel/electric engine with Bosch Rexroth drive train and premium quality bearings and hydraulic system • Climate-controlled cab for operator comfort during the initial teach modes and pressurized to keep out dust • State-of-the-art electrical controls and automated mow height • Optimized front-mounted electric decks meticulously engineered to finishing quality mowing at speeds of up to 13.3 acres/hour.
Ushering in a New Era for Turfgrass Production
“The M220-AV represents a full paradigm shift for turf farm mowing,” said Steve Aposhian, FireFly’s founder and CTO. “We are creating new efficiencies to meet the turf farm industry’s highest needs, which we will ultimately expand to fulfill turf maintenance roles in every place they are needed. The M220-AV has been designed and purpose-built from the ground up to be the most efficient mowing machine on the market. Further, the rigors of providing autonomous solutions at the commercial farm level lend themselves long term to the development of markets such as golf, sports turf and municipal (parks and schools), orchard, and roadside safety mowing.”
“Today’s news underscores our mission of creating unprecedented value for our customers,” Aposhian added. “This accomplishment combines our proven best-of-breed technologies with new innovations to deliver on that promise.”
FireFly CEO Andrew Limpert noted that the steadily increasing costs and shortages of labor in many parts of the U.S. and the world is becoming a serious threat to the future of traditional farming. The ability to automate manual repetitive tasks is critical to its survival and robotics and automation hold the key to the long-term competitive positioning in agriculture.
“While autonomous machines will never fully replace the need for qualified human resource, innovations like the M220-AV are a vital complimentary development toward farming’s ability to produce ideal turf and traditional crops more efficiently,” Limpert said. “Additionally, the ability to increase labor efficiency while lowering the requirement for fossil fuels through hybrid and electrification technology will reduce emissions and saves expenses in fuel consumption,” he continued. “The growing need for increased efficiency—coupled with sustainability—is an opportunity in virtually all areas of agriculture. Technology is the clear solution.”
For more information about FireFly’s M220-AV including datasheets and high-resolution photos, visit fireflyautomatix.com/m220.