Some people just aren’t mowing their lawns this year, but for lots of homeowners, it’s a regular chore. And if some neighborhood kids are used to getting $20 to do it for you, well, they may soon be out of a paycheck.
Updated on 6-30-2016 by Lulu Chang: iRobot files trademark application for “Terra.”
Roomba-maker iRobot is one step closer to bringing its robotic lawn mower to market, as the company has filed a trademark application for a “robotic lawnmower” named “Terra.” In a statement, the company remained tight-lipped on the lawn mower’s future, saying only, “iRobot is constantly working to develop new practical robotic solutions that are designed to improve people’s lives, both inside and outside of the home. While the company is exploring the lawn mowing category, it is company policy not to discuss further specifics at this time.”
This news comes nearly a year after iRobot was granted a waiver to proceed as planned by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC typically doesn’t allow unlicensed “fixed outdoor infrastructure” to transmit low-power radio signals.
Back in April of 2015, iRobot filed for the waiver, which it needed because the mower will use wireless beacons that will act as boundaries and will communicate with the robot, ensuring the device doesn’t wander into the street or start cutting your neighbor’s lawn. The beacons operate in the 6,240-6,740 megahertz range, the same range the National Radio Astronomy Observatory uses to view the spectral signature of methanol in space. The NRAO wanted the vacuum company to use a geolocation feature to keep the beacons from interfering with that.
Instead, regulators waived the rules after determining that the iRobot’s proposed limitations on height and signal strength should make the beacons safe. The company also said it would restrict the beacons to residential areas, according to Reuters.
“The FCC’s assessment agrees with our analysis that the technology will not have a negative impact on radio astronomy,” said iRobot’s spokesman in a statement.
The beacon technology is what would set the iRobot RLM apart from other robotic lawn-care devices. Right now, mowers like the RS 630 from Robomow can cut the grass based on schedules, but users are required to place wires around their yard to create boundaries for the robot.
Don’t expect to see an iRobot lawn mower by summer’s end, though. The technology is just one of the technologies the company is evaluating as “part of a long-term product exploration effort in the lawn mowing category,” said the spokesperson.