Robots Allowed on 440 MHz Band

Recon Scout

ReconRobotics Inc.'s Recon Scout

Government Technology, a trade magazine covering state and local government issues, reports that the FCC will allow a robot used to transmit live video during rescue operations to transmit in the 430 – 448 MHz band, ending a legal battle between amateur radio operators and law enforcement over the device. The report says:

Called the Recon Scout Throwbot, the robot transmits over the 430-448 MHz portion of the 420-450 MHz frequency band, which is primarily used by the federal radiolocation service. The spectrum is also utilized by amateur radio enthusiasts. The latter group, spearheaded by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), opposed a waiver request filed with the FCC by Recon Scout maker ReconRobotics Inc. to use the band.

The ARRL argued that ReconRobotics’ claims that the device would be useful in public safety and anti-terrorism operations didn’t prove that a waiver to use the frequency bands was in the public interest. The FCC admitted, in its order approving the waiver, that while some interference in the frequency bands may occur, it isn’t a reason to prohibit the use of the Recon Scout.

The ARRL spin on this is that this is a partial victory for amateur radio. They correctly note that the FCC granted their request for changes in the labeling and instruction manual requirements to ensure that users of the device are aware of its limitations, with regard to interference:

Recon Scout transmitters delivered after April 15, 2011 must carry the following label: “This device may not interfere with Federal or non-federal stations operating in the 420-450 MHz band and must accept any interference received.” The instruction manual must also include the following: “Although this transmitter has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission, it must accept any interference received from Federal or non-federal stations, including interference that may cause undesired operation.”


  1. David Brodbeck N8SRE says:

    My opinion is that disclaimer means nothing. There’s just no way the police are going to accept any interference to their operations from hams, no matter what band they’re using, so any frequency they decide to operate on will effectively become theirs. I’m guessing anyone who tries to assert otherwise is going to have a pretty unpleasant time of it.

  2. David Brodbeck N8SRE says:

    I also should add that I feel allowing an exception to the band assignments just so a company can avoid having to re-engineer a device to use a different frequency sets a very bad precedent.

  3. John McDonough, WB8RCR says:

    I think it is incumbent upon all of us to communicate to our local emergency management agencies just what that means. The fact of the matter is, these devices are LIKELY to be interfered with, but the probability of the police identifying that interference is virtually zero.

    On the flip side, if they interfere with us, as they likely will, the regulation REQUIRES they modify their operation so as to not interfere. Most police departments do have a certain respect for the law, so would be likely to take a notice of interference seriously.

    Of course, we don’t want to get involved in either battle, so it is far better that we inform our local jurisdictions of the implication of “secondary” ahead of time.

    I have shared my concerns with the Michigan State Police. Whether it get disseminated widely enough to make a difference remains to be seen. But I am also acquainted with the commander of the SOD, the MSP group most likely to use such a thing, and plan to have a conversation about this next time I see him.

  4. Elwood Downey, WB0OEW says:

    So they’re creeping along disposing of a bomb, Joe ham gets on his HT, the robot jerks and BLAM! The robot company is crazy for designing their radios to use a ham band in the first place, it’s just waiting to happen in a big city near you. But then the FCC giving a waiver to sanction such craziness is even is more craziness. But I agree with David, I have a feeling the ham would get the blame, not the robotics outfit. Sorry, but I have a feeling we won’t have our bands a whole lot longer.

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