During the 1990s groups at universities around the world developed small working automated/robotic telescopes that proved the feasibility of using such systems for education and research projects. A few of the more successful projects such as the Bradford Robotic Observatory in the United Kingdom and the University of Iowa’s Automated Telescope Facility (AFT) and Iowa Robotic Observatory (IRO) programs proved how useful and powerful these systems can be in practice. This paper describes how one company, Torus Technologies, developed hardware and software technologies to create the most advanced integrated small automated/robotic telescope systems in the world. These systems were designed from the “bottom up” to be automated/robotic telescopes capable of operating an entire observatory including domes, CCD cameras, and other peripheral equipment.
Automated/robotic telescopes can play a major role in enabling small colleges and universities, especially in developing countries, to actively participate in serious “hands on” research and education projects that otherwise would not be practical. A commercially available affordable, high-precision, and proven turnkey automated/robotic small telescope system capable of operating remotely via the Internet is crucial for bringing this technology into widespread use. Today Torus Technologies telescopes are installed at locations worldwide as primary instruments for research programs, discovery and monitoring programs, and education programs. This paper describes some of the current applications for using these telescopes and how these telescope systems will be used in the future in standalone installations and in global networks.