$7.2m set for project supporting massive radio telescope
The Ministry of Science and Technology has set aside a special fund for projects involving intelligent robots in support of the 500-meter aperture spherical telescope (FAST) operation, according to a statement released by the ministry on Thursday.
According to the statement, 50 million yuan ($7.2 million) has been allocated for the robot projects to support FAST, and the science and technology department in Southwest China’s Guizhou Province will be responsible for identifying applicants.
FAST, also known as Tianyan, is a radio telescope located in a natural basin in Pingtang county in Guizhou Province. It was put into use in September 2016, and it is currently the world’s largest filled-aperture radio telescope. It is mainly used for astronomical and cosmological observation and research, including detection of distant signals and cosmic materials.
The projects for the supporting robots of FAST include robots designed to ensure the smooth operation and maintenance of FAST’S laser targets and its overall monitoring system.
The use of intelligent robots in large scientific projects in not unusual. According to Zhou Minfeng, a senior analyst from Beijing-based consultancy iresearch, a top-down government plan and funding are pushing the application of the sector. In a scientific project like FAST, automation and even artificial intelligence can provide a high level of accuracy and precision.
“Intelligent robots can give the FAST project a robust control system and ensure its daily maintenance and operations are running smoothly,” Zhou said. “Highly accurate robots can carry out very complicated tasks with high precision, something that cannot be replaced by manual labor.”
“As the sector grows exponentially, it will be applied more commercial areas including education, health and public security,” Zhou said.