China Says It Will Now Use Robots To Maintain Its FAST Telescope

In a remarkable advancement of technology, a team of Chinese engineers has developed an intelligent robotic car capable of performing intricate tasks on the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) can now undergo maintenance, repairs, and replacements with the assistance of this groundbreaking robotic innovation.

Maintaining the impressive Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), often dubbed the world’s largest single-dish and most sensitive radio telescope, comes with its challenges. With a reflective surface crafted from thin one-millimeter aluminum plates, the telescope’s enormous spherical dish encompasses an area equivalent to 30 football fields. This delicately designed structure cannot withstand the pressure of an average adult’s weight.

However, a team of engineers at the Institute of Automation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences has risen to the challenge by creating an ingenious solution. Their latest creation, an intelligent robotic car, can navigate in all directions, a crucial skill when working on the complex structure of FAST. Remarkably, the robot can even undertake tasks on a steep 56-degree slope, a testament to its advanced engineering.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences reports that the newly developed robocar has already been integrated into FAST’s maintenance procedures, contributing to substantial improvements in operational efficiency and reduced safety risks. This innovation marks an essential milestone in technological advancement by enabling the robot to perform tasks that would have otherwise posed significant risks to human technicians.

Situated in the natural contours of a deep and circular karst depression in Guizhou Province, southwest China, FAST embarked on its operational journey in January 2020. It opened to the world in March 2021. Introducing the intelligent robotic car into its maintenance repertoire adds a new chapter to the telescope’s ongoing exploration and scientific discovery legacy.

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