March 1, 2018

Left Hand Robotics scaling up production of snow-plowing robots

LONGMONT — Left Hand Robotics Inc., a manufacturer of snow-plowing robots, is ramping up production of its SnowBots through a 10-client pilot program.

Longmont-based Left Hand Robotics started its pilot by putting out a request for interested customers — typically contractors who clear snow for large campuses or municipalities or commercial buildings who do it themselves — to apply for one of their SnowBots. CEO Terry Olkin told BizWest they ultimately received 40 applications for 10 slots they could fill.

“We were way oversubscribed,” Olkin said. “We saw there was a lot of interest.”

Pilot customers are spread between the West and East Coasts in the United States and Canada, in order to test the SnowBots in locations that will be experiencing snow at different times. Robots were delivered throughout January, and personnel were trained how to use them.

The SnowBots also had to be trained, Olkin said. The robots operate by first learning a path they are expected to take to clear the snow. That’s done by using a push cart equipped with GPS, which tracks the path the SnowBot will take. The GPS data is uploaded to a program that the SnowBot uses to know where to go. The SnowBots are also equipped with LIDAR, thermal and ultrasonic sensors that enable them to detect any obstacles that may be in their path, such as a person or tree branch. The SnowBot can then alert personnel that there’s an obstacle, and it will stop and wait until a person can come clear the obstacle or manually drive the SnowBot around it. In addition to clearing snow, the robot also takes photos and documents the work done, which can be helpful in the event of a lawsuit where proof of cleared snow can be a major help to a company.

Olkin said that robots are ideal for an industry such as snow clearing, which has difficulty finding people willing to go out in freezing conditions at 2 a.m. to clear snow on a large building campus.

“There’s concern about robots replacing people, but in this industry, they often can’t find people willing to do the work,” Olkin said. “In this situation, it’s not displacing jobs that are out there, it’s solving a real problem. Here, labor is the problem.”

The pilot program will end around April, but the robots will stay with clients through the summer so improvements that don’t require snow can be made.

Left Hand Robotics plans to raise Series A financing soon and will scale up production for the 2018-19 winter season. The company also plans to hire engineers and people to assemble robots as it scales the business from research and development to shipping. So far, the company has raised $1.7 million in angel and early venture-capital investment.

Olkin added that Left Hand is also accepting reservations for its next-generation robots. It plans to produce 40 this year, and one-third have been reserved so far. Reservations can be made with a $1,000 refundable deposit.

“We’re very excited about what we’re doing,” Olkin said.

 

LONGMONT — Left Hand Robotics Inc., a manufacturer of snow-plowing robots, is ramping up production of its SnowBots through a 10-client pilot program.

Longmont-based Left Hand Robotics started its pilot by putting out a request for interested customers — typically contractors who clear snow for large campuses or municipalities or commercial buildings who do it themselves — to apply for one of their SnowBots. CEO Terry Olkin told BizWest they ultimately received 40 applications for 10 slots they could fill.

“We were way oversubscribed,” Olkin said. “We saw there was a lot of interest.”

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