WTB and OET Seek Comment on Section 374 of FAA Reauthorization Act

By this Public Notice, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and the Office of Engineering and Technology seek comment on issues related to unmanned aerial (or aircraft) system (UAS) operations in the 960-1164 MHz and 5030-5091 MHz bands pursuant to a reporting requirement mandated by Congress in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Commission, to submit to specified committees of Congress a report that examines whether to allow the provision of certain UAS communications on the spectrum bands identified in the Act (or others, if necessary).

The Act specifically requires the FAA, the NTIA, and the Commission, after consultation with relevant stakeholders, to submit a report:

(1) on whether unmanned aircraft systems operations should be permitted, but not required, to operate on spectrum that was recommended for allocation for [Aeronautical Mobile Route (R) Service]2 and control links3 for UAS by the World Radio Conferences in 2007 (L-band, 960-1164 MHz)4 and 2012 (C-band, 5030-5091 MHz),5 on an unlicensed, shared, or exclusive basis, for operations within the [UAS Traffic Management] system or outside of such a system;

(2) that addresses any technological, statutory, regulatory, and operational barriers to the use of such spectrum; and

(3) that, if it is determined that some spectrum frequencies are not suitable for beyond visual-line-of-sight operations by unmanned aircraft systems, includes recommendations of other spectrum frequencies that may be appropriate for such operations.

Accordingly, we invite interested parties to provide comments on the issues identified above as the Commission prepares its contribution to this report. We seek specific comment on how various spectrum access methods and existing and planned infrastructure might overcome any technological or operational barriers to UAS operations in such spectrum.

We note that a Petition for Rulemaking recommending service rules for the 5030-5091 MHz allocation is currently pending before the Commission.

The record in that proceeding, including the Aerospace Industries Association’s Petition for Rulemaking and comments in response, may provide useful background to interested parties.

To inform our Section 374 efforts, we also seek comment on additional actions we might take to promote the safe and robust use of licensed, commercial spectrum for UAS operations.

Numerous studies are currently underway to determine how existing flexible use mobile networks can be leveraged to safely and reliably support UAS command and control systems as well as other uses such as payload applications.

While it appears that such spectrum has the potential to support low-altitude UAS, studies—such as those being conducted by 3GPP—indicate that the use of flexible use spectrum to support unmanned aircraft may increase the risk of interference to adjacent spectrum bands and geographic markets, particularly in circumstances where high densities of unmanned aircraft are involved.

We request information on the UAS applications (e.g. command and control, payload, or telemetry) and deployment scenarios under consideration by wireless service providers and equipment manufacturers at this time, as well as on the technical issues, including potential interference concerns, they are encountering in direct studies and testing.

What are the altitude limits (above ground level) in using conventional mobile network infrastructure, and what are the infrastructure and spectrum options for serving unmanned aircraft at higher altitudes (in controlled airspace)?

Additionally, what technical issues or interference concerns might arise from dissimilar uses of the same frequencies in a relevant geographic area or in adjacent areas? We also request comment on solutions under consideration to mitigate interference issues.

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