Story 2015-04-18 7B6P Lawn mowing robots to inferfere with radio telescopes

Lawn mowing robots to inferfere with radio telescopes

by
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.
Reply 7 comments

What about goats? (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-19 17:29 (#7CDW)

Twenty years ago, I spent 6+ hours a week mowing a large lawn until I got sick of it and installed fences and goats instead. I like the idea of this Roomba lawn-mowing device, but we don't always need a technological solution.

Re: What about goats? (Score: 1)

by kwerle@pipedot.org on 2015-04-20 03:11 (#7D2D)

A few questions:
* How big is a lawn that takes 6+ hours to mow?
* How many goats does that support?
* What kind of weather do you have that you can support goats on your property?
* Where do you live that that's allowed?
* What do you do about the plants you don't want the goats to eat (veggie bed, flowers, etc)?
* How much does it cost/goat (vet, whatever else goats need)?

I really would like to know!

I live in California, and I'm sure:
* My property is too small to support goats.
* There isn't enough water to keep enough grass for the goats to eat consistently.
* It'd be illegal where I live.
* They'd eat our young trees, veggies, flowers.
* etc etc

Robot mowers seem like a more likely solution. Nonetheless, I'd like to know how well the natural solution is working for you.

Re: What about goats? (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2015-04-20 03:22 (#7D2Z)

Here in CA, I've seen 2 goats on just 1 acre. No idea how much supplemental feeding was required, though. And I am often surprised just how often cities' zoning regs allow horses, pigs, chickens, goats, etc., provided you meet some fairly modest minimum lot size.

Re: What about goats? (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-20 12:38 (#7DXH)

Considering your questions, I realize I had taken on the care of a property that I believed was best run as a hobby farm, rather then a domestic home; however, I initially just followed the practices of the previous owners who had mowed most of it for domestic use for the previous several decades; once installed, the goats were amazing at keeping the lawns looking great. Around here, I think one goat could easily tend 0.5-1 acre without too much trouble. The property was in an agricultural district, agriculturally zoned, with lots of both rain and sun, however; so as you say, absolutely not the circumstances presented to many Californians. I lived in Pasadena, California while doing my post-doc and spent the first six months of my time there marvelling how weird it was to feel like you were in a desert, yet seeing lush green in most places -- people appeared to spend a lot more time, money, water making vegetation grow there, then trying to keep grass cut.

* How big is a lawn that takes 6+ hours to mow? ~3-4 acres, used a ride-on mower for the "first pass" which would take ca. 4 hours, the extra hours came from using push mowers and whipper snippers to clean up the parts closest to the road, etc; the lawn would need to be mowed once per week on average lest the grass get too long to mow the next time round
* How many goats does that support? After 1 year of the above and basically spending the majority of my free time mowing, I installed 2-4 goats on 2+ acres to keep the grass like a meadow.
* What kind of weather do you have that you can support goats on your property? lots of rain and warm sun; the grass grows fast most weeks of the summer (3-5 months)
* Where do you live that that's allowed? eastern Canada, rural
* What do you do about the plants you don't want the goats to eat (veggie bed, flowers, etc)? fenced them off or let things play out as the did; in most cases, the lawns/fields had pre-existing apple, plum, peach, cherry trees, etc. with leaves too high for the goats to kill and the drops which added to their food supply and their "cleaning" role.
* How much does it cost/goat (vet, whatever else goats need)? I can't remember the details; I would pay on the order of $20-$100 per goat at the start of summer; I bought male goats that I would butcher and eat in the fall; startup expenses were fencing and a shelter for the goats, but I don't recall much other expenses otherwise (salt blocks for the goats?)

Uses of the spectrum (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-19 17:32 (#7CEN)

How do authorities know if someone is using a forbidden frequency band, in any case? In other words, what would it take to confirm that a band is not being used by average citizens?