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Drones and FCC Equipment Authorizations

Drones and FCC Equipment Authorizations
June 18, 2018 by
On June 5, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission released an Enforcement Advisory confirming that audio/ video transmitter accessories used with drones must also comply with the Commission’s Equipment Authorization rules before being marketed to U.S. customers. According to the Advisory, the FCC “has observed a growing number of websites that advertise and sell noncompliant radio accessories, specifically audio/video transmitters (AV transmitters), intended for use with drones. Noncompliant AV transmitters are illegal, and they have the potential to interfere with public safety, aviation, and other operations by Federal agencies.”

Under the Communications Act, violators of the FCC Equipment Authorization rules may be subject to significant penalties, which can include monetary fines up to $19,639 per day for marketing violations and up to $147,290 for an ongoing violation.

Recently the FCC proposed a multi-million dollar fine against HobbyKing for marketing devices used to relay video from drones to amateur drone operators. HobbyKing represented that its transmitters operated in designated amateur radio bands, but an FCC investigation found that sixty-five models of the devices also operate outside those bands. This requires the devices to be certified by the FCC, and they were not. HobbyKing did not respond to the FCC’s order to provide information regarding the AV transmitters, and on June 7, 2018, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture against HobbyKing with a proposed fine of $2,861,128.

The FCC’s recent actions highlight the need for drone, and other equipment, manufacturers, retailers, and purchasers to be aware of the potential qualification of such equipment as an RF device and the resulting potential need to comply with the FCC’s Equipment Authorizations.

Lindsay Miller is an attorney in Ice Miller’s Public Affairs and Government Law Group, with a focus on broadband and technology. Read more about Ice Miller’s Broadband and Telecommunications Industry Group here.

Ice Miller's IoT team brings together lawyers from all disciplines who combine their traditional legal experience with in-depth knowledge about the IoT and how it impacts business. Learn more about our Internet of Things Practice here.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.

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