Back almost a year ago to the day (13 JUN 2022), I backed a Kickstarter for a revolutionary new design of robotic lawnmower. This was a first-of-a-kind design that doesn’t require a buried wire and instead uses something called RTK navigation in addition to GPS. This new lawnmower is called the Luba, by Mammotion. This blog post is simply my impressions and some quick pictures of the installation, etc.
Kickstarter, Unboxing, & Installation
The Kickstarter campaign was a bit nerve-wracking. This was by far the most I’ve ever spent for a campaign, and I was hoping that I wouldn’t get screwed. I believe that I plopped out somewhere under $1500, but it was close to a 50% discount, so I took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. Then there was a resurgence of COVID here in the US and in China (where most of the development was being constructed). To the Mammotion team’s credit, information from the company was always early, often, and complete. They were amazingly communicative and responsive. There’s also a Facebook Group for owners and backers. Some have claimed that the customer service is unresponsive, but that hasn’t been my experience. I was notified about the shipment, and received the box showed up on 27 FEB 2023, and we were off to the races… Kinda.
Because I live in the northeast, Luba sat in its box until the weather was right to start mowing. It was torture… Especially because it has a battery in it, so I didn’t want to sit too long. Unboxing the Luba was uneventful, something I’ve come to appreciate with new electronics. The packing quality was really something to be impressed with. Everything was clearly marked and packed tightly. I took everything out of the box and had the unit assembled (which only involved installing the bumper) in about 20 minutes. I wanted to take my time and lay everything out correctly.
All in all, it took me about 5 hours to get all the outside equipment installed, BUT, I went overboard. I could have likely used the provided mounts, but I wanted to run everything in my shed, and run it permanently. As you can see in the above gallery, I mounted the RTK antenna to the front of the shed and then mounted the charging station also. In reality, actual setup probably would have taken me an hour using the included mounts.
After setting everything up, I placed the Luba on the charging pad and let it sit all night to get a good initial charge on the battery because I wasn’t sure how accurate the battery gauge was. I let it sit on the charger for just about 18 hours.
Initial Setup & Yard Mapping
The initial setup was… interesting. I had bouts of bad positioning errors, but was eventually able to map my back yard. The gallery below shows some images of the mapping. Initially I had just done the back yard, then I did the front yard a few days later. Essentially, you connect to the Luba with Bluetooth and pilot it around your perimeter like it was a drone or RC Car. It was actually surprisingly easy, albeit a bit frustrating with the constant positioning errors. Luba says it can handle a 1.25 acre property and mine is a .33 acre property with very minimal tree coverage. Walking about the perimeter of the back yard took me about 35-40 minutes. I imagine if the software were more robust, it would have been quicker. The front yard pieces took me about 15-20 min each.
Regular Mowing & Repeatability
I’ve had the Luba installed and running now for about 2 months. When it works, it works amazingly well. This morning (06 JUN 2023), it was mowing my back yard without issue, went back to the charger, and it’s now giving me positioning problems… I’ll likely cancel the rest of the mow, because it’s been frustrating. These are new problems. Since the initial setup I’ve not had any positioning issues, BUT, the tree coverage is getting a bit more dense. I hope that this doesn’t become the norm, because it will be extremely frustrating. So far, for the front yard, it’s been almost flawless. The back yard has given me more trouble, which I prefer, because that’s fenced in, and I don’t have to worry about it sitting dead in the middle of the yard to perhaps get taken by someone. It’s rather heavy and does have anti-theft features, but it won’t stop someone from attempting to take it. And, let’s be honest, nobody is going to return it once they find out they can’t actually use it.
Hardware Construction & Firmware
Now… I’ve been running this thing for almost 2 months, and I have to say I am really impressed with the hardware of the Luba itself. The suspension, mowing disks, motors, sensors and bumpers all seem of exceptional quality. Some folks have mentioned that there have been issues of water ingress and seals going bad in their units. I haven’t seen any of this yet, but I am keeping my eye on it. I’m actually REALLY surprised that the tiny blades do such a good job mowing the grass. They’re essentially double-sided contractor razor knife blades (they’re about 1.5″x1″), and they even tackled the dandelion plantation I was growing…
The firmware for me has also been pretty good. Today is the first day I’m really having significant issues with positioning problems (and there is another firmware update, so I will likely run that shortly). I’ve not had any issues with navigation, returning to charging, going in no-go zones, etc. The mowing has been pretty good. I’m not exactly sure how it decides which wifi to connect to, however, as it seems to prefer the WORST access point available to it.
This is an area of significant concern and an area that needs significant improvement. It’s obvious that Mammotion spent significant time on the hardware design, RTK navigation, and firmware for the mower itself. Honestly, the app feels like an afterthought. I can understand this given the Kickstarter nature of the product, BUT, they need to start making strides in the app very soon or it will really hurt the adoption of the unit, and for selfish reasons alone, I don’t want a $1500 paperweight when their cloud service dies due to lack of adoption.
Specific things that aggravate me are:
- Lack of Push Notifications
- Simplistic Nature of the App
- Lack of Modifiable Mowing Areas (they’re set once and completely remove and recreate should you like to modify it)
- Lack of a “total” mow time that takes into account charging times
- Lack of general stability
- Lack of an API
- Lack of a web-based interface so I don’t need to use my phone to track progress
- Lack of smart-integration (see Lack of an API).
I FULLY believe that each of these things will be taken care of, but they’re certainly taking their time…
Overall, I really am happy with the device. As long as these little aggravations sort themselves out over time, I will be completely satisfied. As they increase stability, and add push notifications, the service will get 1000x better and more usable and I won’t feel like I have to babysit it so much.
EDIT: One thing I forgot to mention was just how quiet this thing is. It’s really impressive. Here are some bonus videos…
Coming Up Next… Automatic Gate!!!
Stay tuned as I will be posting a door project soon where I created an automated gate to allow the Luba to pass from the back yard to the front yard without me needing to manually intervene.