FCC to consider rules for initial spectrum use by uncrewed air systems

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has shared with her colleagues proposed rules to enable wireless communications for uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) use in the 5 GHz band.

“This initial action will, if adopted by a vote of the full Commission, establish service rules that allow operators to obtain direct frequency assignments in a portion of the 5030-5091 MHz band for non-networked operations,” according to an FCC press release.

“We are taking an important step forward to ensure the availability of wireless communications for increasingly important at remote-piloted aircraft activity,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel.  “The FCC must ensure that our spectrum rules meet the current – and future – spectrum needs of evolving technologies such as uncrewed aircraft systems, which can be critical to disaster recovery, first responder rescue efforts, and wildfire management.”

“The Report and Order circulated on April 5, 2024, would rely on dynamic frequency management systems (DFMSs) to manage and coordinate access to the spectrum and enable its safe and efficient use.  These DFMSs would provide requesting operators with temporary frequency assignments to support UAS control link communications with a level of reliability suitable for operations in controlled airspace and other safety-critical circumstances.

“To enable operations in the band during the interim period before the DFMS is in operation, the rules would, on an interim basis, require operators seeking to transmit in the band to first submit a request to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for deconfliction and approval, and, upon FAA authorization, complete an on-line registration form with the Commission.  The Report and Order also would fulfill the initial step previewed in the National Spectrum Strategy released in November of 2023, in which the FCC, in coordination with National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the FAA, would take near-term action to facilitate limited deployment of UAS in the 5030-5091 MHz band, in advance of future study of the band.

“The new rules would not address at this time remaining issues on which the Commission sought comment in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in this proceeding. Specifically, the Report and Order would not address network-based operations in the 5030-5091 MHz band, whether FCC rules for various flexible-use spectrum bands are sufficient to ensure co-existence of terrestrial mobile operations and UAS use or whether changes to Commission rules are necessary, or the process for UAS operators to obtain a license in the aeronautical VHF band to communicate with air traffic control and other aircraft.”

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