The FCC Investigated Unmanned Aircraft Companies

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates radio frequencies in the United States. They do this by regulating electronic devices that intentionally transmit radio frequencies and electronic equipment that unintentionally transmits radio frequencies.

One way to counter bad drones flying where they shouldn’t is to intentionally jam the radio frequencies the drones use for navigation, such as the radio signals transmitted by GPS satellites or by jamming the frequencies used to control the aircraft. . Unfortunately, although highly effective, radio frequency-based UAS counter technologies can have the potential to cause all sorts of collateral disruptions to people and businesses using these frequencies in daily life, such as receiving GPS signals for manned aircraft or car navigation or for something as simple as Wi-Fi.

The FCC not only regulates the operation of these types of technology, it also regulates the marketing of these types of technology. 47 USC Section 302a(b) prohibits the manufacture, import, market, sale, or operation of jammers without a license in the United States, with certain exceptions.

We discovered that the FCC had sent letters of investigation (LOI) to counter unmanned aircraft companies. To date, we have obtained a total of eight such letters of intent. Seven are for business entities and one for an individual.

The FCC characterizes the Letter of Intent as “an order by the Commission to produce the documents and information requested herein.” They go on to state in bold, “Failure to respond appropriately to this Letter of Intent is a violation of the Communications Act and our Rules.” The footnote to this sentence cites numerous cases and lists associated penalties ranging from $25,000 to $300,000.

These investigations have something to do with “radio communications and the marketing and operation of radio frequency devices in the United States”. Letters of Intent request a long list of information and documents from the targets to provide. The letters of intent obtained have been heavily redacted to prevent us from gleaning information about the FCC’s investigative techniques. However, we have learned that the FCC asked the target to identify FCC registration numbers, trade names of radio frequency devices marketed for sale or lease in the United States, and whether the intentional radio frequency transmitters had been tested and authorized or not.

Letters of Intent have fairly strict response deadlines, 30 calendar days, and require very specific affidavits from an authorized company official verifying the truth and accuracy of the information, stating that all information has been produced and stating that all documents provided are true and exact copies of the original documents. If the corporate officer is relying on other people, those people will also need to file affidavits. The LOI went on to say that failure to support responses with a sworn affidavit could result in forfeiture while citing a case saying “impose a penalty of $100,000 for failing to submit a written response under oath[.]”

In conclusion, the FCC has become aware of the manufacture, marketing, use, or sale of radio frequency-based counter drone technology in the United States.

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