In January, Roomba maker iRobot announced its next autonomous chore-doing robot: a lawnmower called Terra. Autonomous lawnmowers aren’t exactly new, but Terra is different. Unlike most robot lawnmowers, it uses wireless beacons to understand what your yard looks like rather than relying on a long, cumbersome wire that’s around the edges of your lawn.
Last we heard, the Terra was in beta. Now, iRobot tells The Verge that the beta is “progressing well,” and it expects to begin selling the Terra in the US in 2020. (iRobot wouldn’t reveal pricing.) After digging through Federal Communications Commission filings and some Terra support articles on iRobot’s website and fact-checking a few things with iRobot, it’s easier to understand how it might work.
Keep in mind these details may not be final. The user manual and support articles we dug up might be placeholders, or they might have just been for the beta.
- Those beacons may be a seemingly simple way to define a yard for the Terra, but they could be more complex than they appear. One support article says the Terra should be in sight range of three beacons “at all times” to best function, and another article says the number of beacons needed “depends on the complexity of the yard.” iRobot wouldn’t say how many beacons are required for an average lawn.
- Unlike some other robot lawnmowers, the Terra user manual says the Terra and its beacons must be installed by a professional so the robot can properly mow your yard. This won’t cost more at launch, though; iRobot says it will initially provide the installation and a training session to customers.
- Some Terra models will have a Bluetooth remote that allows users to drive the twin-bladed robot, iRobot confirms. The FCC filings show that the remote connects via Bluetooth, and TechCrunch says you can stash it inside the top of the robot, next to the other controls. The FCC filings indicate the likely spot for the remote and a switch that puts the lawnmower into “Remote Control” mode.
- After the Terra is done mowing, the user manual says it will return to a charging base. iRobot tells The Verge the base will plug into a standard electrical outlet. It’ll also return if the battery runs low, and continue mowing from where it left off once the battery’s charged again.
- If you’re wondering where Terra stores grass clippings, we now know that it doesn’t. Support documents say Terra will “micro-mulch” the grass it cuts, like other robot lawnmowers. That should mean fairly tiny shavings of grass will settle in your lawn.
- The Terra mysteriously has two different battery ratings for the same battery, according to a photo: 98 watt-hours or 92 watt-hours (though that last rating has an asterisk). iRobot wouldn’t comment on which one is the actual rating.
- The user manual says that the beacons use standard AA batteries, and they should be changed once a year.
- In January, iRobot said the Terra should work in “inclement weather,” and its label seems to back that up with an “IP55” printed on it, likely indicating an IP55 ingress protection rating. This means the Terra should be protected from most debris and low-pressure jets of water — so it will probably work even when it’s raining. iRobot wouldn’t confirm the IP55 rating.
- If you have cold winters, you shouldn’t keep the Terra outside. In a support article, iRobot recommends bringing the robot and its beacons inside for the winter.
- If someone steals the Terra from your yard, you’ll probably be satisfied to know that they won’t be able to do anything with it. iRobot confirms something we spotted in a support article: the Terra has theft protection software that makes it “inoperable” if it’s placed in a yard it’s not mapped for.
- Sadly, it seems like you won’t be able to see a live tracker of the Terra mowing in the iRobot Home app, per a support article. I would have had a lot of fun with that.