It's been a while since we've heard anything about iRobot's robot lawnmower, Terra. iRobot announced Terra at the tail-end of January, and it revealed that its product works differently from other robot lawnmowers on the market via the navigation method. Robot lawnmowers aren't anything new, but folks are busier than ever and it's sometimes nice to just have a helping hand around the home or yard.
While other robot lawnmowers typically work by running an underground wire around the perimeter of the yard, iRobot's Terra works via a series of wireless beacons instead. These beacons are placed around the perimeter of the yard and appear to give the Terra a way to identify exactly where it is in the yard by using the wireless beacons like landmarks. Each beacon is powered by AA batteries and has an estimated one-year battery life.
Documents that The Verge has uncovered give us some additional details on the beacon functionality, as well as some possible additional details about the robot itself. iRobot has also published a number of support articles detailing various functionality of Terra, showing that iRobot's beta program is progressing nicely and could hint at a consumer release early next year.
Owing to the concept that these beacons are used as landmarks, one support article says that Terra must be able to see at least 3 beacons at all times. Given that Terra is setup by driving once around the perimeter of the yard, it likely maps these beacons and then solely uses them as a way to know where it's at in the yard. iRobot says that these beacons need to be professionally installed, which might mean this is a more expensive robot than originally thought.
Some Terra models even appear to have a Bluetooth remote that allows users to manually drive the robot around. This remote is kept underneath the hatch up top, which looks like a nearly identical designed hatch to the ones found on the iRobot Roomba s9 and Braava jet m6. Apparently, the Terra will even automatically enter remote control mode when the remote is removed from the hatch, removing some annoying steps that might otherwise be present.
As we would expect from an advanced (and expensive) home robot, the iRobot Terra is powered by rechargeable batteries and will automatically dock itself to charge those batteries. The dock itself isn't detailed in the documents, but iRobot does say that the dock will plug into a standard electrical outlet the way all of iRobot's other consumer robots do.
A photo of Terra's rechargeable battery shows two different power ratings; 98 Watt-hours and 92 Watt-hours. We're not sure which one is the actual value, but that rating means it should be able to run for quite a while before needing to recharge. An electric weed-wacker I have, for example, has a 40 Watt-hour battery and can run for 30-45 minutes on a charge.
Terra also has an IP55 water and dust resistance rating, meaning that it won't short out when it rains or get its ports clogged up with grass clippings and dirt. How Terra will charge if its wet isn't yet known, but that's surely going to be a problem that iRobot is working to solve during the current beta process. Folks who live in places where it gets extremely cold will need to bring their robot mowing pets inside for the Winter, iRobot support documents say.
The mower itself will perform "micro-mulching" on the grass while mowing, meaning it'll chop the grass clippings up finely and return all those fantastic nutrients back to your yard, naturally.
The robot also has an anti-theft feature that keeps it from being operable in any other yard than the one it is not set up for. There's no realtime location tracking within the app, though, so we're not sure if the robot will have more advanced anti-theft features than just being inoperable. This also means you won't get to virtually watch your mower chop up some grass while you're at work.