FCC Proposes Licensed Spectrum Access For UAS


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed rules to allow wireless communications for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS/drones) in the 5030 to 5091 MHz band, which would give operators to access the licensed spectrum. The Commission further stated that it is seeking comments on “whether measures are necessary to facilitate such use on flexible-use wireless networks.” The FCC noted that UAS currently operate primarily under unlicensed and low-power wireless communications rules or experimental licenses.

“It is past time that we assess the availability of wireless communications resources for the increasingly important remote-piloted aircraft activity we rely on today,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “The FCC must ensure that our spectrum rules meet the current—and future—spectrum needs of evolving technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems, which can be critical to disaster recovery, first responder rescue efforts, and wildfire management.”

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), shown below, also includes a proposal to implement a process for drone operators to “obtain a license in the aeronautical VHF band to communicate with air traffic control and other aircraft.” The FCC developed the NPRM in collaboration with the FAA and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). It will be open for comment for 30 days following its publication in the Federal Register.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Be careful what you wish for! The last paragraph of this article looks like the government trying to require FCC licenses for pilots/airplane owners in a “back door” manner, something not currently required for domestic flight operations.

    • Unlikely, since the aircraft is the radio station, and the pilot is in the airplane and thus travelling with the station. This obviously isn’t the case with a drone, so the operator would be the radio station.

  2. Wait, I thought paying for a new ADS-B radio for my airplane a few years ago was supposed “to communicate with air traffic control and other aircraft.” Is this yet another new system?

  3. “…to allow wireless communications for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS/drones) in the 5030 to 5091 MHz band”. Is that the same at “5G band” mobile phones are using?

  4. From US Dept of Commerce:
    Federal agencies are developing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) command links in the
    5030-5091 MHz band. The Air Force uses the 5030-5091 MHz band for a microwave
    landing system (MLS) at military bases. The National Aeronautics and Space
    Administration (NASA) operates active sensor systems in the 5030-5150 MHz band on a
    non-interference basis. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses 5091-5150
    MHz band for the Aeronautical Mobile Airport Communications System (AeroMACS) to
    support air traffic on the surface of airports. Federal agencies use the 5091-5150 MHz
    band to support flight testing.