Swap Robotics, an operator of a robotics-as-a-service vegetation management system, has received $7 million in seed funds from leading U.S. utility-scale solar developer SOLV Energy to scale its business.
The service features a fully autonomous battery-powered mower that manages vegetation height to minimize shading on a solar array. The modular design allows for easy battery swapping, and the device can be outfitted with other attachments like snowplows.
The startup company charges its customers through a subscription based model, pricing based on frequency and terrain type. Swap said it has $9 million in contracts lined up for the next three years.
The robots can work 8- to 12-hour shifts, with the ability to do 24/7 operations with a battery swap, performed by Swap servicers. Each robot has two charging ports and is able to charge fully in two and a half hours. Swap said it aims to achieve 20% vegetation management cost savings from day one.
Swap Robotics projects the solar vegetation management market could reach “tens of billions of dollars” by the 2030s.
To start operations, the company pre-maps the solar project site. Once the robots have mapped out the area, they can run routes autonomously with remote “guardian” oversight. The company said if a robot goes out of service while on the job, it will have a new one working within 90 minutes.
The 5-foot tall robot clocks in at at top mowing speed of 7.5 miles per hour, although it has to operate at half that speed for safe operations. The company offers models with a 48-inch cutting deck and a 60-inch cutting deck. A series of sensors helps the robot avoid obstacles. It slows down if there is a person is detected within 30 feet to 70 feet and it will come to a full stop if a person is within 30 feet. The robot can cut vegetation beneath the array as long as it is raised at least 18 inches off the ground.
“Rough cut” solar vegetation cutting decks on the robot can cut grass down to anywhere from two inches to eight inches. It can cut woody vegetation can be up to 2.5 inches in diameter.
The company says the system is packed full of safety features like visual detection, sensing edges, remote guardians, six built in mechanical emergency-stops (all over the robot that meet ADA height requirements), wireless emergency-stop, two-way audio, back-up beeper, amber revolving lights, signal indicators.
“Driving the development of innovative technology is essential to optimizing our capabilities and preparing our workforce for the influx of new projects in a growing number of states,” said George Hershman, chief executive officer, SOLV Energy.
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