Lawn mowing robots to inferfere with radio telescopes

in space on (#7B6P)
Astronomers are getting ready to do battle with the iRobot corporation over their new lawn mowing robots. The makers of the Roomba are working on a similar device used to mow lawns. Astronomers are concerned about potential interference with radio telescopes. In February, iRobot filed a waiver request with the FCC to use part of the radio spectrum to guide the robots. The company wants to use the frequency band between 6240 and 6740 MHz, which is a frequency that several large radio telescopes use to observe methanol, which is plentiful in stellar nurseries.

iRobot has proposed adding a note to the user manual: “consumer use only; use must be limited to residential areas.” The NRAO doesn’t think the approach will work. Liszt and the NRAO say that they need a 55-mile exclusion zone to protect the data obtained by the radio telescopes. It is possible that the radio telescopes could begin generating bad data, without knowing why and without necessarily knowing that the data is bad, if the product goes ahead as planned.
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