Review: Spider ILD 02 remote-controlled slope mower

By: Tom Dickson


Our Aussie reviewer tries out the Spider ILD 02 remote-controlled slope mower and finds it’s not only efficient and safe… it’s also a whole lot of fun.

Confucius says: "Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life." That has never rung truer in my life.

I was lucky enough to be doing something that didn’t feel like work at all. For me, that happened to be running a family-owned farming operation.

And it seems farming is about to become a whole lot more fun with the introduction of remote-controlled machines to help with efficiency, reach those hard-to-access points on the property and eliminate the risk of injury to employees.

Does "work" that involve 40 per cent rest, 50 per cent play and only 10 per cent actual work sound too good to be true?

That’s exactly how Andrew Mehaffy of ANC Industries spends each of his working days operating his Spider ILD 02 remote-controlled slope mower.

ANC Industries’ services include: land, vegetation and environmental control; small plant mowing and slashing (hand and ride-on); lawn and garden detailing; landscaping; large plant mowing and slashing (tractor and Posi-Track); specialist mowing (with the Spider); and under-scrubbing and land-clearing.

Mehaffy uses the Spider ILD 02 for vegetation control on steep batters and rough ground, as it offers an extremely safe option on worksites that have to adhere to stringent occupational health and safety guidelines.

He also uses it for commercial, government and private uses where steep dam banks and slopes cannot be accessed by traditional ride-on and push mowers.

Mehaffy gets most of his work for the Spider in and around metropolitan and urban areas, but I can see huge potential for its use on farms everywhere.

I recently caught up with Mehaffy at the North West Rail Link site at Cherrybrook, Sydney, to find out if he does indeed have the best job in the world.

Spider mower overview

The mower we looked at uses a 24hp petrol engine, is four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and weighs about 335kg.

Under the deck there are four belt-driven, mulching blades. Mowing height is variable from 70mm to 120mm, and the effective mowing width is 1230mm.

It has an extremely low centre of gravity, which allows it to work on slopes of up to 41-degrees without the risk of rollover – and up to 55-degrees if the optional Hydraulic Stabilizing Winch is installed.

Spider -ILD-02-mower _Andrew Mahaffy
The Spider ILD 02 has not once let Mahaffy down and he says he has put it into some seriously awkward positions through drains and waterways.

Mehaffy says the greatest selling feature of the Spider by far is its safety element.

"It will do anywhere up to 41-degrees unwinched and up to 55-degrees with the winch, as opposed to a ride-on where you can’t do anything with more than a 15-degree slope safely.

"As for brush cutting, you could do it with harnesses, but for what you could do with the Spider in an hour it would take about 15 blokes to do the same area with brush cutters."

That sums up the biggest benefits of the Spider ILD 02. Whether you’re out on a public worksite or at home on the farm it saves time, money and, potentially, even lives.

Machine start-up

Under the rugged plastic protective cover of the Spider ILD 02 is a 24hp, 726cc Kawasaki motor, which also drives a hydraulic pump for the hydrostatic transmission.

It has electronic ignition and runs on unleaded fuel.

Flicking a switch on the mower engages power and makes it ready for operation.

The remote-control console has a button to beep the horn on the mower to warn anyone that they may be a bit close.

And a quirky trick to start the engine is to beep the horn, then push the ignition button.

When Mehaffy told me this was a necessary requirement I thought he was trying to set me up to look stupid, but it is in fact a safety alert.

Controlling the Spider

Spider -ILD-02-mower _remote Control
The Spider slope mower radio control range is 100 meters. Despite its complex appearance it is actually quite simple to use. 

Using the remote-control console the operator can now start and stop the motor, steer, raise and lower the cutting height, and adjust the engine speed for optimum performance.

Being a remote-controlled piece of equipment, it allows the operator to stand independently from the machine on top of the slope or at the bottom of the slope or steep area.

From either of these positions you get the best view of the mower going up and down the slope – and you’re in no danger of injury due to a rollover.

The Spider worked best if I controlled it from the bottom of the slope and mowed in an up-and-down direction, working my way across the slope.

Traction never seemed to be a problem even in the steep areas; however, Mehaffy advised to mow extreme slopes in a downward direction and then send it back up a less gradual path.

If it’s steep right across the site then using the winch is advised. It would also be wise not to stand directly below it while working just in case it tips over and tumbles down towards you.

Another technique is to hook up the winch and mow in a side-to-side motion, slowly working your way down the slope. The winch control is integrated into the forward and reverse control of the mower.

Spider -ILD-02-mower _winch
Attaching the Hydraulic stabilising winch to any solid structure enables safe manipulation of the machine on slopes up to 55 degrees.

As you direct the mower up the hill, the winch automatically pulls the Spider up the hill. Likewise, it lowers itself as you reverse down the hill again.

The winch can only be turned on by engaging a switch on the mower, but Mehaffy and I both agreed the switch would be better placed on the remote-control console.

What is most impressive is the absolute ease in which the Spider crawls effortlessly over uneven ground, like a mountain goat on the side of a cliff.

It never once lost traction or looked like tipping, and it ploughed into long scrubby grass with what seemed like power to spare.

The left toggle on the controller takes care of forward and reverse, while the right toggle controls left and right steering.

It has a third steering function called dance step, which makes the mower pivot on the spot like a skid steer.

It’s activated by pushing a button on the side of the controller while pushing the left-hand toggle backwards or forwards. It comes in handy for manoeuvring out of tight situations or rough terrain.

Being four-wheel drive and four-wheel steer it can virtually go anywhere, and the finished cut is far better than I would have imagined.

Cut quality and speed

Spider -ILD-02-mower _cutting Deck
The cutting deck consists of four belt-driven mulching blades. Tipping the machine on its side is the best way to carry out routine maintenance.

When we flipped the Spider over it revealed a cutter deck not dissimilar to that of traditional ride-on mowers using cutter bars.

This one has four mulching-type blades, so the occasional sharpen will improve the quality of cut.

Seeing the quality of the finish led me to think it would do a great job on parks, gardens and even sporting arenas.

I admit to driving it at a very steady pace, but Mehaffy admits he was pretty slow in the beginning as well. But after about 20 hours of using it he was confidently cruising along at its top speed of 8km/h.

If you are able to achieve a full cutting width of 1.23 metres on each pass, travelling at the maximum speed of 8km/h, it will cut around 9840 square metres per hour.

The verdict

The Spider ILD 02 is safer than a ride-on model, saves time, doesn’t take holidays or sick days, won’t complain about the working conditions no matter how uncomfortable, and is certainly cheaper than paying 15 men to do the same job.

At the end of the day it fits easily on the back of a ute or trailer for transportation between jobs.

Common sense would suggest we are close to seeing machines like this operating autonomously on farms, parks and gardens in the near future.

In hindsight I may have been wrong when I said using a Spider mower is about 40 per cent rest, 50 per cent play and only 10 per cent actual work.

After mucking around with it I reckon it’s more like 50 per cent rest and 50 per cent play. There isn’t much work involved.

Just imagine how easy it would be to get the kids to go and mow the lawns if you had a remote-controlled mower parked in the shed!

Hits:

  • Safety
  • Constant 4WD
  • Compact
  • Economical
  • Mulching blades
  • Winch (up to 55-degree cutting angle)                  

Misses:

  • Winch switch is not on remote controller

Specifications  

ENGINE                                               

MAKE: Kawasaki

POWER: (hp) 24

CAPACITY: (cc) 726

IGNITION: Electronic

TRANSMISSION

MAKE: SAUER DANFOSS

TYPE: Hydrostatic            

MOWING: WIDTH (mm) 1230 HEIGHT (mm) 70-120

DIMENSIONS                    

WEIGHT (kg): 335

FUEL (l): 16

WHEELS: 16 x 6.50 (V tread pattern)

For the latest farming news, subscribe to Farm Trader magazine here.

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Farm Trader's free newsletter or liking us on Facebook