FCC Denies ARRL Petition to Deny ReconRobotics Licenses, But Limits Devices to 100 kHz Bandwidth
On November 14, the FCC issued an Order on Reconsideration dismissing a March 2010 Petition for Reconsideration filed by the ARRL that asked the Commission to deny pending Public Safety Pool license applications associated with the ReconRobotics Video and Audio Surveillance System; however, in doing so, the FCC made it clear that the devices may not exceed 100 kHz of bandwidth. The Recon Scout -- manufactured by ReconRobotics -- is a remote-controlled, maneuverable surveillance robot that transmits real-time video surveillance data that operates by FCC waiver in the 70 centimeter band.
In its March 2010 Petition for Reconsideration, the ARRL argued that the FCC should reverse its Application Order and rescind all of the licenses granted by that order because, in the ARRL’s view, “every one of the  pending applications contains serious technical errors and none is grantable, and the signal emission designators in every one of the applications is incorrect.” The license applications all specified an emission designator that represents a bandwidth of 100 kHz. The ARRL pointed out that this is incorrect, because the necessary bandwidth is approximately 5.75 MHz. In its Petition for Reconsideration, the ARRL pointed out that the “emission designator that shows a 100 kHz bandwidth for a full NTSC [National Television Standards Committee] 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.”
The FCC, in its Order on Reconsideration, stated that it did not agree with the ARRL’s arguments – but emphasized that the bandwidth used by the ReconRobotics devices may not exceed 100 kHz. “The factual predicate for the ARRL’s claim is that the ReconRobotics device will conform to NTSC standards and thus will necessarily exceed 100 kHz,” the FCC said. “But according to ReconRobotics, their devices do not conform to NTSC standards and the necessary bandwidth for their operations is 100 kHz. We thus reject the ARRL’s argument on the basis that ReconRobotics is bound by its representation and the relevant licensees are limited to 100 kHz. If a licensee exceeds 100 kHz, it is in violation of the terms of its license [emphasis added].”
The ARRL maintained that ReconRobotics had not measured its emissions in a manner that complies with Commission rules. “According to the ARRL, the Commission’s rules distinguish between ‘necessary bandwidth’ and ‘occupied bandwidth’ and ReconRobotics incorrectly uses ‘occupied bandwidth,’” the FCC stated in its Order on Reconsideration. “ReconRobotics disputes this and assert that it uses a procedure for measuring ‘necessary bandwidth’ appropriate for a non-NTSC signal. We conclude that ReconRobotics uses an appropriate methodology for measuring ‘necessary bandwidth’ for non-NTSC signals, and that the ARRL’s objection is based on the mistaken assumption that the Recon Scout uses an NTSC signal.”
In its Order on Reconsideration, the FCC also took the opportunity to again remind applicants who wish to utilize the Recon Scout “that if they receive licenses and commence operations, they must record all Recon Scout use, including the date of operation, start/stop times, location of operation, frequency segment of operation, reason for use and a point of contact. Licensees must provide this information to the Commission or to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration upon request of either agency. Moreover, as we stated previously in the Application Order, licensees that operate the Recon Scout in an unauthorized manner are subject to Commission enforcement action, including possible license revocation.”
The ARRL has pending at FCC two other related pleadings dealing with ReconRobotics that have not been resolved.
The ARRL filed a request to rescind the grant of equipment authorization for the Recon Scout with the FCC laboratory on October 4, 2010. The ARRL argued that there were several serious mistakes made in granting equipment authorization. In January of 2011, the Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology informed ARRL that the complaint was under review.
The ARRL also filed a separate Petition for Reconsideration on March 6, 2012, dealing with the number of units of the Recon Scout that could be sold annually. On February 6, 2012, the FCC’s Wireless Bureau granted to ReconRobotics a modification of the 2010 waiver granted to ReconRobotics authorizing the sale and marketing of the Recon Scout. ReconRobotics had asked FCC for the authority to sell up to 8000 of these devices to customers during each of the third and fourth years following equipment authorization of the device. It also asked that any number of devices fewer than the maximum number permitted to be sold in any prior year that were not sold in each of those prior years be permitted to be carried over to future years, so that the limits imposed during a given year could be exceeded by those aggregate amounts of prior-year unsold units.
The FCC’s Order of February 6, 2012 stated that the Commission “need not revisit the (annual) Recon Scout sales limits every two years.” Instead, without prior notice and comment -- and without any explanation -- the Order established an annual limit of 8000 Recon Scout device sales for all subsequent years, and allowed unlimited “rollover” of unsold devices from prior years fewer than the annual maxima. The ARRL argued that there was no valid justification for the arbitrary specification of 8000 annual unit sales, for the unlimited rollover sales provision or for the elimination of FCC’s periodic review of deployment of the number of units. That Petition for Reconsideration remains pending at FCC.