Drawing the initial lines on a new football pitch takes about five hours of work, often a two-person job requiring of them-at three hours of work each to measure, trace and paint with precision. A new GPS-equipped robot, however, can do the to work alone in about 20 minutes.
This autonomous assistant is a creation of TinyMobileRobots, a Danish startup that is gaining more and more traction in the US market. German industrial manufacturer Stihl, best known for its chainsaws, recently acquired a 23.8% stake in TinyMobileRobots through its venture capital arm, Stihl Digital. Stihl purchased the shares previously held by Borean Innovation, an incubator funded by the Danish government.
Coating of a sports field with TinyMobileRobots becomes a job for a single worker using a tablet and using the application. It has been adopted by clients such as Manchester United, FC Dallas, University of Michigan, Florida State University and Yale.
“You just pick up a football pitch model with your finger, push it to where you want it to be on the Google map,” explains TinyMobileRobots founder and CEO Jens Peder Kristensen. “And then when it’s there, you press save, then start and the robot will work.”
Kristensen previously worked as a management consultant, where he collaborated on projects using information technology in traffic and transportation issues. This helped illuminate the vision and led to an introduction to a researcher named Kjeld Jensen, who used a rudimentary robot to measure the thickness of cobblestone asphalt.
“It was really a prototype, it had a laptop on it,” says Kristensen. “And if it rained, we had to put a raincoat over it, and it was kind of fun to do that.”
Nevertheless, he saw a business case. Jensen, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark, was not keen on pursuing, so Kristensen started working ohn infrastructure. He attached a can of spray paint to help mark the road lines, which later evolved into the sports field line marker.
TinyMobileRobots Now has layouts for over 50 outdoor sports, from classic on-pitch football and American football to Quidditch and bandy. “There are a lot of weird places you’ve never heard of,” Kristensen laughs.
A gardener lining a football pitch in Wimbledon, England, this summer, a process that can take two men up to five hours.
Consumer use of GPS is more of an approximation than a reliable surveyor. GPS on smartphones in the United States are generally accurate to within 5 meters, or 16 feet, as long as there is no interference. The European Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) system, Galileois better—within 1 meter, or 3 feet—but it is still far from what is needed to paint trustworthy lines.
TinyMobileRobots is able to achieve half-inch accuracy using a different band of satellite transmission – its carrier waves – a technique that has been used in agriculture and other industries. This is called GPS carrier phase enhancement, or CPGPS.
“Instead of using the GPS news channel signal, you’re going to be looking at the waves below, which are 1,000 higher frequency than signals,” says Kristensen. “Then you take the sine waves and then you line them up. It takes eight or nine satellites to be able to do that. And when you do that, we get to millimeter precision.
The TinyMobileRobots app offers more than 50 outdoor sports fields, from soccer and American football to rarities like Quidditch.
Humidity and other factors reduce accuracy to about half an inch. Trees, however, can prevent a good signal. Some gardeners have removed branches from secondary trees, but there is also a setting in the app to allow lines to be manually painted in those areas.
The higher the quality of the terrain area, the better the lines. But the robot is tough enough for all conditions, even mud. “We haven’t seen a field so uneven or so bad that we couldn’t score on it yet,” Kristensen said.
TinyMobileRobots has customers who only maintain one or two pitches, but experienced users like football academies, university sports departments or municipalities get the most out of it (Danish city of Naestved was his first client). Depending on the length of the season and playable outdoor climate, average usage variess. But fields are usually aligned between 30 and 50 times per yearwith some college football programs Make theirs daily.
“No one really has the manpower to be able to do what they were doing before the Covid outbreak,” says Terrence Davies, TinyMobile Vice President of Robot Sales based in Atlanta. “One of the things that robots do very well, aside from just painting, it allows one person to be able to do all of these areas on their own, allowing other workers to do other tasks. “
TinyMobileRobots was originally meant to mark road lines, until it became a sports field line marker.
The road infrastructure robot is still available, and a new model has been designed for sewer work; roads and sewers are the two largest infrastructure in the world, notes Kristensen. But for now, sport Craft the greater part of TinyMobileRobots‘ business, with over 750,000 fields having been bordered.
Some of the robot’s key components, including its hub motor the wheels and battery are from the e-bike industry. And TinyMobileRobots‘ the initial expectation is that the machines would have a use similar to a bicycle, in the neighborhood of 100 to 200 hours per year.
“Some of the robots we can see working up to 700 hours a year,” says Kristensen. “Sometimes I [say], “I sell them a bicycle, but they buy a tractor.” They really use it like it’s a John Deere.