The company behind the development of a wireless lawn mowing system is getting pushback from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) over concerns about the system’s potential to interfere with astronomical exploration.
As we reported in March 2015, iRobot, the developer of the popular Roomba wireless vacuum system, filed a request earlier this year with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), seeking a waiver from the Commission’s rules applicable to the unlicensed operation of a wideband system. According to the company, its new wirelessly-operated robotic lawn mower (RLM) system utilizes portable beacons placed in multiple locations on a lawn. These beacons transmit location information to a wireless robotic lawnmower that then maps a designated mowing area.
According to the waiver request filed by iRobot with the FCC, the RLM operates in the frequency range of 6240-6740 MHz. This is the spectrum band allocated for unlicensed wideband systems, including those operated by the NRAO to identify methanol out in space (an indicator of potential star-forming activity). As a result, the NRAO has subsequently filed comments with the FCC regarding its concerns about iRobot’s requested waiver.
A recent blog posting on the robotics page of the IEEE Spectrum website provides an interesting and humorous summary of comments between the NRAO and iRobot regarding the actual potential for interference and the steps that could be taken to allay interference concerns.