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FCC Extends Waiver for Robots Use in 420 MHz Ham/Government Band

The FCC responded to a request from ReconRobotics regarding the limit on sales of the Recon Scout, a surveillance robot using the 430-448 MHz segment of the 420-450 MHz band.

Ham radio operators will recognize this as the 70 cm amateur radio band, which is also shared with the U.S. government for numerous purposes, including radar defense. The 432 MHz region of the band is used by hams for weak signal communications, including such exotic practices as bouncing signals off the moon for communications with other hams at great distances.

In 2010 the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau granted ReconRobotics a waiver permitting equipment authorization and customer licensing of the Recon Scout. Sales were limited to 2,000 units during the first year following equipment authorization approval, and 8,000 units during the second year. ReconRobotics requested that it be permitted to sell up to 8,000 units during the third and fourth years following equipment authorization, with unused limits from prior years carried forward to any subsequent year.

Applications for customer licensing remain pending, but ReconRobotics stated that it has received no complaints of "verified" interference from operation of Recon Scouts pursuant to an experimental license.

In the response, the FCC concluded there is no need to revisit the sales limit for Recon Scouts every two years and established an annual limit of 8,000 units, with a rollover of unused sales. All other conditions of the waiver continue to apply.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.