When I first started my PhD my project was to write software which allowed STMs to automatically collect atomic resolution images without a user present. Anyone who has tried atomic resolution SPM has felt the pain of trying to get the tip in a state where it can take images. Spending often hours on end with a computer screen showing nothing but noise.
We have had some success with automating atomic resolution imaging in both vacuum and ambient conditions:
The automated imaging work on graphite was published in Applied Physics Letters under the title: “Automated probe microscopy via evolutionary optimization at the atomic scale“.
(The paper is NOT open access, however, the publishers have kindly allowed me to provide a free copy here: ).
A detailed overview of the toolbox SPIW was published in the Review of Scientific instruments under the title: “Scanning probe image wizard: A toolbox for automated scanning probe microscopy data analysis“. (The paper is open access.)