Mowing Your Lawn with Lasers, What Could Go Wrong?

Hate mowing the lawn? Why not spend weeks testing out various complicated work arounds instead? YouTuber Daniel Riley made what is essentially a Rube Goldberg machine to do this particular chore for him. The build cuts grass with a high-powered laser and moves around his yard via a rover. Over the course of multiple weeks, it scorched parts of his grass, weeds, and bushes but never fully did the job. It’s a definite “don’t try this at home” machine. But makes for a fun video that also highlights just how dangerous lasers can be.

The laser Riley uses is 8,000 times more powerful than those party lasers you can buy. And it does cut grass. But the process is hindered by the blades constantly falling over into the laser’s path. Rather than raking, he tried multiple automated fixes. Including a 3D-printed cyclone separator that was way too loud, didn’t really work, and eventually exploded into resin shrapnel. Attaching the laser rig to a rover that creeps forward with every pass helped some, but it still took days to make any progress. Certainly not easier than just mowing the lawn yourself. Or even hiring someone else to do it. But that’s not really the point.  

We saw this build thanks to Gizmodo. Believe it or not,  the previous version of a lawn mower was even scarier. Riley outfitted a rover with sharp blades attached to motors and controlled it via remote. Even his cameraman didn’t want to get too close to that one.  

A laser rig cutting grass

Riley’s other wild builds include remote controlled rovers, hydrofoils, and snowcats. You can check those out on the rctestflight YouTube channel.

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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