France discovers robots to mark fields

Marking a full-size football field in France is a task that can now be completed in 30 minutes. Impressed by the ease with which these robots can be operated and the quality they deliver, a former French pharmacy preparer has decided to establish her own company. She now services clubs and municipalities, delivering an affordable marking solution.

Marking a sports field is still done manually by many clubs and municipalities. Done in the traditional way, it can take up to several hours before a full-sized sports field is marked correctly as employees or volunteers first have to measure and indicate where which marking should be placed before they then carefully execute the painting process.

Once she discovered that robots could take of this procedure, Sandra Lagravère saw an opportunity. She established her company, Geo-Trace, to provide marking services to clubs and municipalities in the south of France. “I use a tablet to give the robot instructions. For a football field, I’ll indicate the four corner points of the field while a rugby field requires me to indicate the length and width of the playing field. From there, the technology takes the lead. A GPS connected to a satellite records the data and does the rest. All that is left for me to do is monitor the proper functioning of my robot.”

Alain Rescanières, who is responsible for the sports facilities of the Trèbes municipality, explains how much time the marking robot will save him and his team. “At the start of the season, when all we have is virgin grass land, it takes three people up to two days to mark one field correctly. Thanks to this robot, we no longer need cords, decameters, and staff.

“Each time we cut the grass and remove the markings a little more,  we are forced to redo the job, meaning that every second week, the staff are busy painting the field.”

Smart technology

Lagravère uses the Turf Tank One, formerly known as ‘The intelligent one’ marking robot. The unit uses GPS technology to establish its position and to paint the field correctly.

“Every time, we learn something new from our tests,” she says, admitting that she prefers to follow the robot as the machine goes along. During the test at the Châtaigneraie stadium, the white line appeared to be wider in some places. “If the grass isn’t cut the previous day, the paint is distributed less evenly. But everything is to the millimetre.”

In the past few years, stadiums have opted to use laser technology to ensure markings are compliant with national and UEFA standards. While this technology contributes to the quality and accuracy of the marking, it still requires the presence of a person. However, marking robots can work autonomously. “Marking a football field can be done in 30 minutes. A rugby field takes 40 minutes,” she adds. However, the biggest gain is when it comes to marking curved lines like centre circles and those at the top of the penalty area of a football field. The robot marks these with an accuracy that is unrivalled.

Sandra Lagravère invested EUR 40,000 in a Think Tank One, a sum that might be too much of an investment for smaller clubs or municipalities with only a few fields. However, entrepreneurs like Lagravère are showing that no club or municipality should have to do without a world-class field. With this particular robot also being able to mark American football, baseball or cricket fields, the days where staff or volunteers had to work for days to make these sports become a reality, will soon be a thing of the past.

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