Deep South Robotics Design Self-Driving Mower Using a Scag Turf Tiger

Having a robotic mower is an excellent tool for those with large yards, or those who work at golf clubs and routinely have to maintain a pristine course. Little robotic models such as the WORX WR140 Landroid, or Husqvarna’s Automower 310 just won’t cut it for anything over 1/4-acre or more. This is where Deep South Robotic’s Self-Driving Scag Turf Tiger Mower comes in handy, as it’s gas-powered and is outfitted with 72-inch blade, which makes little work of properties with significant acreage.

The modified Scag mower features a Pixhawk flight controller and a pair of Wingxine servos that actuate the mower’s handles. (📷: Deep South Robotics)

The people at Deep South Robotics modified the Turf Tiger with some ingenious hardware engineering and ArduPilot’s Mission Planner. The unmodified mower is driven using a pair of handles that are situated on both sides of the pilot seat — when the right handle is pushed forward, the right wheel moves forward, while pulling it back makes the wheel roll in reverse, same with the left side handle. The idea here is to rig a robotic system that can actuate those handles, so the team designed an ingenious servo setup that works quite well.

The servo setup for each arm is the same and uses a Wingxine ASMC-04 servo, Takanawa 555 metal gear motor, and DC motor, along with a servo-to-mower linkage to push and pull each handle. With that portion of the setup complete, they then moved on to the control phase of the project, which uses a Pixhawk 4 (or a Kakute F7) flight controller, which uses ArduPilot firmware and takes inputs via joystick for driving the mower in manual (RC) mode.

The team added an aluminum roll bar to the mower that acts as a support for the navigational equipment, which includes a GNSS antenna, several telemetry antennas, and a compass enclosure packed with sensors, a GNSS radio, and other hardware. The setup allows users to program the mower using ArduPilot’s Mission Planner with selected waypoints and navigational patterns the mower can use when in auto-mode. Deep South Robotics has compiled a detailed walkthrough of their Self-Driving Mower on their project page but warns against using the guide as an instruction manual for safety reasons.

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Author: Cabe Atwell

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