iRobot has been making bots that do household chores for several years to give people an easier, hands free method of keeping clean. However, the company’s latest gadget, a robot lawn mower, is causing some strife between iRobot and the US National Radio Observatory (NRAO) and the National Radio Quiet Zone, or the NRQZ, in West Virginia.
The problem is that the robot lawn mower made by iRobot runs on a frequency that could interfere with that of the radio telescopes used by NRAO, as well as those by NRQZ.
The NRQZ is a totally radio quiet zone where any gadget that could pose a risk to the adventure of studying the signals from space are banned, such as smart phones, etc. iRobot officials don’t agree, and say that the equipment at the two radio telescope locations is too far away and that their robot lawn mowers have too low of a signal range to hurt or interfere in the manner suggested as they travel around someone’s yard cutting the lawn.
iRobot has already petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to be allowed to ignore the ban by the observatories. The way the robotic lawn mowers would work, according to iRobot, is that they run on batteries, and get signals from special beacons on stakes put at various places around the lawn to be mowed and these would receive those signals in a frequency range of between 6240 and 6740 megahertz. The problem is that the FCC currently doesn’t allow anything to be used that falls between 5925 and 7250 megahertz. This ban would have to be lifted in order for iRobot to sell their robot lawn mowers and allow them to be able to freely travel along a lawn to cut the grass.
Of course, the iRobot robot lawn mowers could operate in many other areas of the world without causing any problems at all, but the NRQZ and the NRAO are still concerned that it would harm their research in the areas near their facilities. The NRAO says that they need that frequency band to stay unhindered so that radio beacons are not blocked from their telescopes.
iRobot’s lawn mowers could have a chip installed that would make it impossible to use them in areas near radio telescopes, according to NRAO, and that they must be kept more than 55 miles from their telescopes to keep the beacons safe.
However, iRobot instead wants to put a notice on the devices and in the manual that says the robotic lawn mowers can’t be used except in residential areas, as this would keep them far enough from the areas in question. The results of this argument between iRobot and the observatories has yet to be settled, so time will tell as to the outcome of whether or not consumers will be seeing robotic lawn mowers that travel hands free to cut the grass using a mower from iRobot.