Modern problems: Robotic mowers incompatible with astronomers’ radio telescopes

Modern problems: Robotic mowers incompatible with astronomers’ radio telescopes

[Ed. – I guess we can rejoice that human-caused problems of technological incompatibility are at least something we have discretion over.  It’s not like those pesky tornadoes and tsunamis.]

Scientists at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory have objected to a proposal by iRobot Corp. to sell lawnmowers guided by radio waves. The scientists say the machines may interfere with the ultra-sensitive radio telescopes they are using to scan the heavens.

“We’ll see the whole thing with our electronics,” said Harvey Liszt, spectrum manager for the observatory, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. “It’s a distortion.”

The observatory runs the Green Bank Telescope, set in a mountain bowl in West Virginia, where mobile phones are already banned, as well as facilities in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Together, they are mapping the structure of the Milky Way by capturing faint signals from light years away.

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iRobot, better known for its self-guided Roomba vacuum cleaners and bomb-disposal equipment, has filed a request with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to use airwaves for mowers to be guided wirelessly from beacons on stakes pounded into the lawn.

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