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FCC Report Supports Using 5030-5091 MHz Band Spectrum For Drones

A drone waters crops.

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology announced on Thursday that a report, Congressionally mandated by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, found that the 5030-5091 MHz band is suitable for unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations.

The report recommended that the FCC commence “rulemaking to develop service and licensing rules enabling UAS use of that band.” Furthermore, the report found the alternative frequencies licensed under flexible-use service rules could potentially be used for UAS communications. However, the report did note that the “UAS does have the potential to cause harmful interference to other operations and recommends that the Commission continue to review the use of flexible-use bands for drones.” The report brought forth similar considerations for the proposed usage of the 960-1164 MHz band.

“With the increased reliance on UAS for various business and consumer uses, this was an appropriate time for Commission staff to review the spectrum needs of UAS,” Don Stockdale, Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, said. “We found that there is a reasonable path forward for use of the 5030-5091 MHz band by drones. It is less clear at this time whether the proposed use of the 960-1164 MHz band is feasible. In both cases, there is more work to do, but this is a critical juncture as we seek to ensure that spectrum is available to meet the needs of these increasingly important devices.”

The report provides an analysis of the “feasibility and impacts of spectrum usage by UAS operations.” The FCC stated that it expects the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to each submit reports, they were also directed to submit a report looking into UAS usage in the 5030-5091 MHz and 960-1164 MHz bands. The FCC’s report was sent to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce; and the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  

This report comes after several agencies, including the FCC, FAA, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security issued advisory guidelines for non-government entities on laws and regulations that apply to technology to detect and mitigate threats posed by UASs.

“We are optimistic about the use of flexible-use bands to support UAS operations,” Ron Repasi, Acting Chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology, said. “However, we recognize that drone operations on flexible-use spectrum may raise interference issues for co-channel and adjacent-channel networks, so we recommend further work on using these bands for UAS. Commission staff look forward to continued engagement with Federal and private-sector stakeholders to address these issues.”

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