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As Positive Uses of Drones Appear, FCC Still Too Distracted to Look at Spectrum Issues

Drones and spectrum have been a recurring topic in this blog. But there is no visible action from FCC on any aspect of this problem although insiders have told your blogger that it has been discussed at high levels in FCC. Comm. Clyburn mentioned pending drone legislation in a March 2014 speech, but that is the most visible action that has been public.

The fundamental problem here is that FCC, in your blogger’s opinion, has a fundamental gap between its throughput capacity for making spectrum policy decisions and the workload before it. Part of this is that the structure of decision making at FCC may be inappropriate for many technical decisions that are not fundamentally political. Regardless of the cause, FCC is continuing to fall behind in its workload as it struggles with the megaissues before it: incentive auctions, net neutrality, and corporate mergers.

The above video shows a very clever and very position use of drones developed by a student at TUDelft in Holland. It is a drone that can deliver by air an automatic electronics defibrillator (AED) quickly to someone aiding a heart attack victim for life saving support before paramedics arrive. The drone has a built in cell phone to give instructions on proper use of the AED and get data back from the AED. This sounds a lot more constructive than using drones to deliver pizza! And much much better than “peeping drones”!

But while Congress has told FAA to act on drone issues by next year, FCC is part of the issue also and seems to be ignoring the issue of spectrum access by drones and whether access ins one bands, e.g. Wi-Fi and cell phone bands, might cause negative impacts. Sources in the cellular industry have confirms to be concerns about drones using cellular spectrum for smart phones at heights of 100-200m, but the industry is reluctant to raise any new issue before FCC that might distract from the spectrum auction. Another sign of the present decision making throughput shortfall.


Here is an article about a drone being sold by Amazon for a one day sale price of under $60 that uses “spread spectrum” in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, home of most Wi-Fi systems. While this one appears to have limited altitude capability, Wi-Fi users might want to contemplate the pfd footprint of a similar device at 100m or higher, not to mention the specter of Wi-Fi jamming from those concerned about “peeping drones”.

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