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CRAMER: Federal Spectrum Availability Vital for UAS Advancement

Feb 2, 2017
Press Release

CRAMER: Federal Spectrum Availability Vital for UAS Advancement

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Feb. 2, 2017

Contact: 202-578-9428

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman Kevin Cramer questioned witnesses about the future availability of federally allocated telecommunications spectrum  for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry in an Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing today.  Cramer sits on this subcommittee.   

The hearing was held on the reauthorization of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency located within the Department of Commerce that advises the President on matters related to telecommunications policy.  It is responsible for the management and administration of the federal telecommunications spectrum.  

Cramer’s questions related to the research, development and training at the Northern Plains UAS test site and the Grand Sky UAS Business and Aviation Park in Grand Forks. The sites provide a path for the UAS industry and stakeholder community to carry out advanced UAS research and testing. In the UAS industry, spectrum is used for air to ground control of remote piloted aircraft, also known as drones, and to transmit data from sensors, cameras, and radars on aircraft to control stations.

“Remotely-piloted aircraft plays an increasing role in important duties like disaster recovery, pipeline inspection, security and monitoring, aiding in military logistics, monitoring crops and livestock, and even running errands for consumers,“ said Cramer at the hearing.  “Yet, it seems growth of the UAS industry is reliant on receiving dedicated spectrum allocation to ensure a secure connection for beyond visual line of sight operations.“

Cramer said the Northern Plains UAS Test Site is dependent on varied and slim frequency spectrum for much of the flight testing. “As the UAS industry continues to grow, it will become increasingly difficult to function without dedicated spectrum and a streamlined process coordinated between the Federal Communications Commission, NTIA, and the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain spectrum approval. The industry will have hundreds of thousands of small drones using commercially available technologies like Wi-Fi, but the future lies in using spectrum from command and control system and satellites.“

He highlighted a specific instance a few years ago when one of the large company tenants at Northern Plains hosted visitors to view the capabilities of its cameras and sensors on one of its drones.“Unfortunately, they were unable to turn the drone cameras on because of a spectrum allocation issue. The company ended up having to use pre-recorded video from a different flight in another part of the country to display the camera technology, simply due to a lack of frequency spectrum to transmit camera data,“ Cramer said.

His questions to the witnesses were, “How do you foresee the federal allocation of spectrum fitting in to the future of the UAS industry and how can Congress can help support this process?”

The witnesses at the hearing were former NTIA Administrators Meredith Baker, Anna Gomez and John Kneuer. Baker is currently president and CEO of  CTIA, the wireless communications association.  Cramer’s questions prompted positive responses from each witness who said the NTIA is very focused on the availability of spectrum for the UAS industry and it is essential for the federal government to allow as much coordination and flexibility as possible in the emerging UAS field.