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ARRL Goes Another Round with ReconRobotics

09/09/2010

As reported earlier, on August 16, ReconRobotics -- manufacturers and marketers of the Recon Scout, a remote-controlled, maneuverable surveillance robot designed for use in areas that may be too hazardous for human entry – filed with the FCC an opposition to the ARRL’s Petition to Deny Applications. The ARRL petition asked the FCC to deny dozens of pending Public Safety Pool license applications for the Recon Scout device, which operates in the 430-448 MHz band. On September 1, the ARRL filed its reply (see below).

Calling ReconRobotics’ Opposition to Petition to Deny “rather strident,” the ARRL countered the firm’s claim that the ARRL’s petition was “frivolous” and “filed solely to cause delay.” “Every one of the [84] pending applications contains serious technical errors and none is grantable,” the ARRL maintained. Nor was the filing aimed at causing a delay: “Delay in adjudication of the pending applications is of no value to the hundreds of thousands of licensed Amateur Radio operators who regularly utilize the 420-450 MHz band at all hours of the day and night and who stand to suffer serious interference from, and perhaps cause interference to, these devices. The relief necessary is for these applications to be denied in their present form, and refiled, if at all, following a full and fair adjudication of the pending Petition for Reconsideration filed by ARRL in WP Docket No 08-63 of the waiver granted to ReconRobotics for the marketing of its device, and subject to any additional or modified rules adopted in that proceeding.”

In its Opposition, ReconRobotics acknowledged that ARRL members have a frequency allocation in the 420-450 MHz band, but then suggests (without actually asserting) that the ARRL lacks standing (or “party in interest” status) to file its Petition to Deny. “This suggestion is not seriously advocated however, and indeed it cannot be; the vast majority of ARRL’s members are licensed Amateur Radio operators, who are authorized to use, on either a fixed or mobile basis anywhere in the United States and its possessions and territories, the entirety of the 420-450 MHz band,” the ARRL explained. “Each of the subject applications, therefore, is a potential interference source to (and from) every licensed Amateur Radio operator. It is readily apparent that ARRL is a ‘party in interest’ within the scope of Section 1.939(a) of the Commission’s rules. Additionally, ARRL has a pending Petition for Reconsideration of the ReconRobotics delegated authority waiver order. These applications, if granted, prejudge the outcome of that Petition for Reconsideration in numerous respects. There is no doubt whatsoever that ARRL is an interested party and is entitled to file its Petition for Reconsideration.”

ReconRobotics goes on to erroneously claim that ARRL’s Petition to Deny challenges not the applications, but the ReconRobotics waiver itself. For the purpose of challenging the waiver, ARRL is content to rely on its pending Petition for Reconsideration in Docket 08-63. That Petition is sufficient to demonstrate that the waiver, issued under delegated authority, was ill-conceived and necessitates at least substantial modification prior to authorizing the operation of any licensed facilities pursuant to it.”

The applications are, however, are another matter, the ARRL stresses. “They and the Technical Coordination Body (TCB) grant of equipment authorization for the ReconRobotics device actually raise more questions about the ReconRobotics device than existed before the applications were filed and the TCB grant issued,” the ARRL said. “The ARRL is not attempting to ‘create a stay’ as ReconRobotics misleadingly asserts. The ARRL’s Petition for Reconsideration in Docket 08-63, citing Section 1.102(b)(2) of the Commission’s rules, simply asked that, during the pendency of the Petition for Reconsideration, the Wireless Bureau and the Public Safety and the Homeland Security Bureau stay the effectiveness of the waiver.”

The ARRL believes that authorizing the sale, marketing and use of the ReconRobotics device in these applications based on the faulty waiver “directly brings about the harm complained of in ARRL’s Petition for Reconsideration, including seriously erroneous warning labels and user instructions in the manuals, which ReconRobotics itself conceded (in its opposition to ARRL’s Petition for Reconsideration) should be changed.”

In its Reply, the ARRL pointed out three problems with each of the applications filed to use the Recon Scout:

  • Each application is at variance with the ReconRobotics waiver.
  • Each application is not grantable based on the waiver requests contained in each application, which does not waive all rules necessary to permit a grant.
  • Each application contains technical specifications that are simply wrong.

“Aside from the wisdom of the Bureaus in issuing the ReconRobotics waivers, and despite ReconRobotics’ misrepresentation or misunderstanding of ARRL’s argument, the applications are each defective on their face and they must each be dismissed,” the ARRL contends. “They cannot be granted as filed.”

What ReconRobotics did not address in its Opposition is of critical importance, the ARRL pointed out. None of the subject applications requested a waiver of Section 2.106 of the Commission’s Rules -- the waiver order did not include a waiver of the table of allocations. “There is no domestic allocation for Public Safety land mobile services anywhere in the 420-450 MHz band,” the ARRL emphasized. “Because the ReconRobotics waiver, which was limited to Part 90 service rules, is insufficient by itself to support the grant of an application by Part 90 mobile eligibles to operate the device in a band that is not allocated or available to those eligibles and because none of the subject applications requested or justified a waiver of Section 2.106 of the Commission’s Rules, the subject applications are all defective and should be dismissed.”

Attached to the ARRL’s Reply was an exhibit entitled Errors and Issues in the Testing and Certification of the ReconRobotics Recon Scout by ARRL Laboratory Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI. This exhibit documented the several problems in the test methods and test results used by American TCB to issue the FCC certification for the ReconRobotics Recon Scout transmitter: “These problems and errors led to an incorrect grant of equipment authorization for this device, and the filing of applications for licenses that are each defective and which cannot be granted as the result.” The exhibit also explained that an emission designator that shows a 100 kHz bandwidth for a full NTSC video signal cannot be correct because the FCC rules base emissions designators on the necessary bandwidth of an emission, not a measurement made under a single set of test circumstances.

Hare listed the following problems with the test methods and results:

  • Specification of the emission designator for the Recon Scout.
  • Measurement of the bandwidth of the Recon Scout.
  • Measurement of the power level of the Recon Scout.
  • Frequency range specified for operation of the Recon Scout.
  • The omission in the certification of the Recon Scout of the 75 MHz Part 95 Subpart C transmitter used to control the device.


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