In an effort to improve the efficiency of wireless communications for unmanned aircraft, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that they have begun a rulemaking process to dedicate segments of the electromagnetic spectrum for unmanned aircraft use, according to a press release sent out on Wednesday.
Spectrum licensing is governed by the FCC to prevent waves used for ciritcal services from interfering with one another.
The release states that “The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on service rules for the 5030-5091 MHz band that would provide unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators with access to licensed spectrum with the reliability necessary to support safety-critical UAS communications links.” The agency noted that at present, drones and similar devices operate on unlicensed spectrum.
With the proliferation of UAS (commonly known as drones) for multiple uses, the FCC believes that it is important to create regulations in order to ensure their safe operation. FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks, in his official statement, said “UAS technologies pose plenty of potential, and their promise goes well beyond just package deliveries. They can aid disaster relief, protect critical infrastructure, enhance smart applications and precision agriculture, improve public safety, and even help us build more safely and efficiently. We’re right to continue supporting their development, even as we also explore the unique policy challenges posed by their operation”
“It is past time that we assess the availability of wireless communications resources for the increasingly important remote-piloted aircraft activity we rely on today,” said FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel. “The FCC must ensure that our spectrum rules meet the current – and future – spectrum needs of evolving technologies”.
The FCC hopes that these regulations “further promote the safe integration of unmanned aircraft operations in controlled airspace” and they proposed “a process for UAS operators to obtain a license in the aeronautical VHF band to communicate with air traffic control and other aircraft while maintaining the integrity of the band”.
Stark added that “securing a vibrant future for UAS isn’t about just one frequency band. That’s why I’m pleased to see us incorporate other critical issues related to drone operations into this notice of proposed rulemaking. Consistent with industry and academic interest and ongoing standards-setting efforts, we’re exploring 5G as a UAS platform and the broader use of cellular bands for drone applications. We’re also proposing a way to license drone communications with air traffic control.”
“It is past time that we assess the availability of wireless communications resources for the increasingly important remote-piloted aircraft activity we rely on today,” said Rosenworcel.
“The FCC must ensure that our spectrum rules meet the current – and future – spectrum needs of evolving technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems, which can be critical to disaster recovery, first responder rescue efforts, and wildfire management. I thank our colleagues at NTIA and FAA for their engagement on this proceeding, and I look forward to building a strong public record for this rulemaking.”