FCC Proposes $2.8 Million Fine Against Manufacturer

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to come down hard on a manufacturer whose devices could potentially transmit without authorization in certain radio frequency bands.

The FCC proposed a $2.8 million penalty against HobbyKing, a provider of audio/video transmitters that are intended to relay video to unmanned aircraft systems and other devices. According to the commission, 65 of these devices have the alleged capacity to transmit in unauthorized radio frequency bands, including some models that could allegedly operate at what the FCC called “excessive transmission power levels.”

According to the commission, transmissions such as these could potentially interfere with key government and public safety services like aviation systems and weather radar systems.

The FCC did not detail any specific incidents in its announcement.

Through its website HobbyKing.com, the Hong Kong-based company markets devices that the commission said provides a video link between transmitters that are mounted on unmanned aircraft systems and users who are flying drones. According to the commission, HobbyKing represented that its transmitters operated in designated amateur radio bands; an investigation by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau found that 65 models could also apparently operate outside those bands.  

[Read: Court Strikes Down Drone Registration Rule]

FCC authority is required for users operating a radio frequency-emitting device that could potentially operate outside of the designated amateur-use radio frequency bands. The commission said that none of the devices in question marketed by HobbyKing were certified by the commission. In addition, the FCC said that all amateur equipment used to telecommand model crafts are limited to 1000mW of power. The commission said in its announcement that three HobbyKing transmitter models allegedly operate at 1500 mW and 2000 mW.

Following complaints to the FCC, the bureau opened an investigation in 2015 into the company’s marketing of radio frequency devices and issued a formal citation in 2017 to warn the company that it must comply with FCC requirements.

The steep proposed penalty is not only for marketing noncompliant radio frequency devices but also for failing to comply with commission orders. According to the commission, HobbyKing failed to respond to the enforcement bureau’s previously issued a citation notifying HobbyKing of its legal and regulatory obligations. The company also failed to stop marketing the alleged noncompliant equipment despite a cease and desist order from the FCC. Current law requires companies to respond to requests from the FCC after being warned of possible violations.

The FCC said that HobbyKing has an opportunity to respond to the proposed assessment, and reminded the public that the commission will consider submitted evidence and legal arguments before taking further action.

Susan Ashworth

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.