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ARRL Scores Partial Victory in ReconRobotics Proceeding

04/19/2011

The FCC has given radio amateurs a partial victory in response to the ARRL’s challenge, in a Petition for Reconsideration, of a rules waiver that permits the certification and licensing of the Recon Scout -- a remote-controlled, maneuverable surveillance robot operating in the 430-448 MHz band. The device is marketed to public safety agencies and certain security personnel by ReconRobotics Inc.

In an Order on Reconsideration released on April 15, the FCC granted the ARRL’s request for changes in the labeling and instruction manual requirements to ensure that users of the device are aware of its limitations, with regard to interference. Noting that no applications for individual licenses to operate the Recon Scout had been granted, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, and the Office of Engineering and Technology deferred to the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau with regard to complaints that ReconRobotics has been marketing uncertified devices and that the devices have been operating without authorization.

The FCC Order also acknowledged that the ARRL was correct in arguing that the waiver was insufficient in that it did not waive applicable provisions of Section 2.106 of the Commission’s Rules, which contains the Table of Allocations of frequency bands to the various radio services. The Commission’s solution was to “…retroactively waive the Table of Allocations to the extent necessary to permit use of the Recon Scout.”

ReconRobotics did not object to the changes in labeling and instruction manual language sought by the ARRL. Recon Scout transmitters delivered after April 15, 2011 must carry the following label: “This device may not interfere with Federal or non-federal stations operating in the 420-450 MHz band and must accept any interference received.” The instruction manual must also include the following: “Although this transmitter has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission, it must accept any interference received from Federal or non-federal stations, including interference that may cause undesired operation.” The 430-448 MHz band is allocated to the amateur service on a secondary basis and to Federal users in the radiolocation service on a primary basis; non-federal radiolocation stations are secondary to both federal radiolocation stations and amateur stations.

In other respects the ARRL Petition for Reconsideration was denied, as were petitions filed by individuals. While the FCC agreed that “there were possible inconsistencies between particular readings in the test data” submitted by ReconRobotics, the Commission found that the data “nonetheless demonstrated the particular suitability of the 420-450 MHz band” relative to higher-frequency bands. With regard to concerns that the devices will incur interference from amateur operations, the Commission continues to adhere to the view that “the possibility of the device incurring interference in some instances did not present a compelling reason to prohibit its use in all instances…. ReconRobotics has accepted that it may receive interference from amateur operations, and the Order specifies that the Recon Scout must accept interference from licensed users.”



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