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The Space and Missile Defense Command is working to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions on military bases by using autonomous electric lawn mowers.

The command’s deputy chief of staff, engineer, Weldon Hill is leading the SMDC Autonomous Electric Lawn Mower Pilot Study in support of the Army’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

“Federal agencies were tasked to develop action plans and initiatives that address the adaptation and resilience to impacts of climate change,” Hill said. “The first line of effort for the Army’s strategy is to improve the force’s energy capability and efficiency by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

In spring and fall 2022, Husqvarna’s 550 Exact Positioning Operation System Autonomous Electric Lawn Mowers will be used at the command’s Redstone Arsenal headquarters as a part of the study.

“The autonomous electric mowers are programmed using GPS technology and bound to specific work areas,” Hill said. “Mowers operate similarly to an autonomous indoor vacuum cleaner, like a Roomba, and travel at slow speeds. Built-in safety features enable the mowers to change direction when encountering an object or boundary, and blades will automatically stop if the mower is lifted up or turned over.”

These mowers utilize satellite systems and a nearby reference station to automate its operations, eliminating the need for boundary wires, and is virtually silent, capable of operating 24/7/365, poses no indirect spill pollution risk, and produces no direct GHG emissions or particulate pollution. They are equipped with a tracking system, and their operation will be managed remotely by SMDC people.

Hill said while lawns, grasses and greenspace don’t garner the same attention as traditional transportation, the landscaping sector contributes greatly to climate change. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans use 800 million gallons of gasoline on lawn care annually and spill an additional 17 million gallons as well.

Small engines used in landscaping equipment produce twice as much pollution as personal vehicles: one hour of gas-powered lawnmower use is equivalent to driving a Toyota Camry from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, while one hour of gas-powered leaf blower use is equivalent to driving the same Camry 1,100 miles.

The initiative allows for an alternative approach to landscape management that uses cleaner and more reliable energy sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One of the mowers in the pilot study will be solar-powered, which will allow SMDC to increase its operational electrification by using renewable energy.

Hill said the study will provide measurable public and environmental benefits to Army people and contribute to SMDC’s success in meeting climate change mitigation goals. The utilization of autonomous electric mowers for landscape management promotes environmental stewardship with innovative technology and is one of several initiatives DCSENG is proposing to integrate in SMDC operations to combat climate change.

“Health benefits would be expected for the workforce from the reduction of several types of local pollution such as noise, particulate and spills, and would contribute towards a productive place to work and live,” Hill said.

According to Hill, using autonomous electric mowers will help the command reduce its reliance on controlled and finite resources, such as gas and diesel, with no degradation to the mission.

“The pilot study will analyze performance metrics to determine the feasibility of implementing autonomous electric mowers as a climate change initiative at command locations worldwide,” Hill said.

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