FCC Upholds Surveillance Robots over Amateur Radio - Again

Order reaffirms right of police and fire departments to license robots.

Surveillance robot maker ReconRobotics, Inc. continues to prevail over the best efforts of the amateur radio community. Most recently, the FCC ruled against the amateurs in reaffirming the right of police and fire departments to license ReconRobotics’s robots for operational use.

Read here about the device, which runs around under remote control and sends video back to the operator. (We’d love to have one to play with here in the office.) It operates under an FCC waiver, granted over the objections of ARRL, the national association for amateur radio, and several individual amateur licensees. The amateurs had concerns about interference from the robot’s radio into their communications, and feared also they might be blamed if their operations cause interference to a robot. Having failed to block the waiver the first time, the amateurs asked the FCC to reconsider the grant, which the FCC declined to do.

Meanwhile, ARRL and one James Edwin Whedbee, an amateur licensee, asked the FCC to reject  a batch of several dozen license applications filed by police and fire departments for use of the robots. Their petitions recycled many of the same grounds on which ARRL had opposed the waiver. The FCC turned them down. ARRL and Whedbee both demanded reconsideration of that decision, while Whedbee went on alone to challenge a second batch of applications.

Some months later, Whedbee commendably reported to the FCC that, contrary to his earlier suspicions, in fact he had detected no interference from robot operations. He accordingly moved to withdraw all of his objections.

The FCC has now granted Whedbee’s requests to withdraw, and in the same order, turned down ARRL’s most recent request for reconsideration.

Is the saga over? Will first responders around the country now be able to use these life-saving devices without having to battle the amateurs every step of the way? Will CommLawBlog finally have to find something else to write about? We’ll let you know.

(Disclosure: FHH represents ReconRobotics, Inc. in these proceedings.)

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