Canadian Manufacturing

Roomba-maker cleared to develop a lawn-mowing robot

iRobot allowed to proceed despite objection from radio astronomers



BEDFORD, Mass.—Mowing the lawn may be about to go out of style. The age-old chore, which has lined teenagers’ pockets with green since the rise of the suburb, could be getting a robotic upgrade.

The FCC announced Aug. 12 it has cleared iRobot Corp., famed for its automated Roomba household vacuum, to pursue the development of an autonomous lawn mower.

“We are waiving the prohibition on the use of fixed outdoor infrastructure to allow iRobot to obtain equipment certification for and market a robotic lawn mower,” the regulator noted.

The request to work around the FCC’s radio spectrum rules, which was made early this year, faced a unique astronomical challenge when the National Radio Astronomy Observatory opposed the waiver due to concerns “the iRobot RLM poses a risk of harmful interference to radio astronomy operations in the 5925-6700 MHz frequency band.”

Despite the objection, the FCC gave the Roomba-maker the green light to start chewing away at the teenage allowance-money market.

“We find that granting this waiver is in the public interest because it will enable iRobot to market its robotic lawn mower without posing a significant risk of harmful interference to authorized users of the radio spectrum,” the FCC concluded.

Even with the positive news, however, iRobot has not released a timeline for its newest mechatronic. It’s likely the lawn-mowing market will remain in teenagers’ hands in the short term.

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