Robotic lawn mowers: increased safety for children


© Fraunhofer IMS

LiDAR Owl – the time-of-flight imaging camera that could be used with robotic lawn mowers.

Levels of digitalization and automation are  increasing not only in industrial environments  but also in our everyday lives. More  and more people today are using robotic  devices to vacuum the floors or mow the  lawn. These devices have to precisely monitor  their surroundings to avoid causing material  damage or injury. A test conducted by  German consumer safety group Stiftung  Warentest, however, indicates that not all  robotic lawn mowers stop in time when  children are crawling nearby – in fact, none  of the devices stopped when a replica of a  child’s hand was placed in front of them. 

A LiDAR-based sensor system from  Fraunhofer IMS in Duisburg prevents the  robots from getting close to children playing nearby in the first place, and if a child  does happen to approach it, the device  shuts down immediately. The sensors use  state-of-the-art image processing technology  to generate three-dimensional representations  of the surroundings in real time,  thus making it possible to distinguish between  people and objects. 

In addition to developing photodiodes,  which convert incident light into electrically  usable signals, the researchers are exploring  methods to reduce the adverse effects of  sunlight. The first systems are set to go into  production in late 2019.