The fully automated RL1000 Robomower is the newest of three models: the RL500/550 for small lawns, the RL800/850 for bigger yards, and the RL1000, which can maintain large lawns and comes with a docking station that recharges the unit and can be programmed with days and times to automatically release the Robomower to do its work even if you're sleeping or not at home at all. The fully weatherproof unit is powered by two 12-volt batteries and is comparable to a 5.5-horsepower gas-fueled engine; it will cut a lawn of about 1,600 square feet per charge.
You don't even have to pick up grass clippings. The Robomower mulches the cut grass blades into small clippings and leaves them as a natural fertilizer on your lawn. Because the mower runs on electricity, it doesn't pollute the environment as gas-and-oil fueled mowers do and requires no costly tune-ups. Its operating noise level is less than 85 decibels.
The machine stays within the perimeters of your yard via buried boundary wires placed at the borders of your lawn and around trees, planters and other obstacles. That wiring is connected to a switch powered by six AA batteries. Sensors, touch-sensitive bumpers and an on-board computer guidance system keep the Robomower from ramming into things it shouldn't or straying from your yard.
The mower can handle lawns of almost any shape because it cuts grass in a triangular pattern from several directions. In addition, the three mower blades, which mow a 21-inch-wide swath, cut a little more than a half-inch beyond the wheels, so the machine can trim edges and lawn perimeters without cutting up flowerbeds or trees. You can choose from six different cutting heights.
Safety features include an emergency stop button, plus the motor automatically stops if the mower is lifted up or tilted more than 20 degrees from the horizontal plane. It also comes with a hand-control unit with an LCD screen that can be plugged directly into the mower so you can guide it manually.
The Robomower RL1000 costs between $1,499 and $1,600 and can be purchased online at several sites, including amazon.com and homebotics.com or through Sam's Club (455 31st St., Kenner, 467-9677; 1527 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 361-3966; 3900 Airline Drive, Metairie, 831-2911; 6921 Bundy Road, 243-9824).