Hi, Matt. Hopefully you don't mind me pitching in this late in the game.
I am currently working on a telepresence RC mower/utility vehicle, and was considering adding autonomous capabilities at a later date. The trick, in my eyes at least, is obstacle detection and avoidance. GPS guidance would probably work for large objects, but then there's the little things: critters, trash, large rocks or newly planted shrubs. A vision system like the Kinect might help here...or you could go in the opposite direction and use touch or ultrasonic proximity sensors and a very simple AI like bugbots use.
If I were going the full autonomous mode, I'd look toward the touch / ultrasonic method and design the vehicle to have great endurance, knowing bugbot AI tends to make the vehicle wander around the yard. If you're good with developing AI, you might be able to make a system that uses both GPS and bugbot obstacle avoidance.
Have you started work on the vehicle yet?
It's a bit like an emaciated power wheelchair. The main frame element (the "box") is composed of steel square tubing that will be welded together. Support beams for the rear casters will be bolted on, as will the motor mount plate and the battery tray (a separate, welded assembly made of angle iron).
The receiver, Sabertooth drive controller and AV equipment will be attached at a later time. I'm trying for a modular approach with all the major systems and components bolting onto a strong central frame.
@ S.G, Nice graphic. I had a similar idea. I was talking to someone local and they were talking about attachments for their robot and that gave me a bright idea of building a base robot (like your picture) and have the capability to attach sensors, robotic arms and maybe if I get it working a detachable mower. If I some how cant make it detachable I will just mount it on. I thought it was odd that you have the same idea and modular approach as I was planning on doing. Great minds think alike.
Quick update on my ROmow-1
The motor mounting plate has been machined and is a perfect fit. Today I spent part of my lunch break at a local metal supply store, purchasing the needed square steel tubing (they gave me a sweet deal on the rough cuts, so I let them handle that). A mill took the rough cuts down to exact dimensions.
Almost forgot how much fun making chips is!
Anyone succeeded in a lawnbot yet?
It sure would be interesting to hear about them.
I'm currently shopping for some motors that are for power wheelchair. As soon as I get some for cheap, I'll have them hook up to a APM2 and start modifying the codes to make it walk like a Roomba autonomously. And eventually get it to connect with one of my old lawnmower. It's gonna be an interesting project.
Any progress on this ? What is the position accuracy of the APM2.5 board to guide the robot ? You can buy a number of cheap monster RC chassis to test the guidance system out.
Many apologies for the belated reply.
An update on my ROmow-1. The unit went together smoothly and easily, and the electronics work well. The only change I made was setting the drive wheels to be pushing from the rear, as opposed to pulling from the front. This change makes the unit easier to control.
Since my last post, ROmow has become my primary lawnmower. It tows a 21" manual reel mower using a tow frame that I welded up out of 1" steel tubing. It's a lifesaver during the height of summer!
I believe this kind of frame, with the same drive motors and motor control electronics, would be an ideal candidate for an ArduRover-based mower.