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Cop Robot Gets Green Light From FCC

Ham radio groups have expressed concerns

The ham radio community is not happy with Recon Scout.

That’s a surveillance robot, marketed to police and fire departments by ReconRobotics. The FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has allowed licenses for the operation of the robots despite the protest of amateur radio supporters. Recon Scout uses part of the 420–450 MHz band, where hams have a secondary allocation.

Mitchell Lazarus of the law firm Fletcher Heald & Hildreth highlights the debate in a blog post and gives an update on the policy fight. (He describes the robot as a device “the size of a beer can with a wheel on each end, and a TV camera peering out.”) Hams, he wrote, think the device would cause interference and that they might be blamed for any interference they caused to the robot.

Over the last couple of years, Lazarus reports, the commission bureaus have backed the first responders while limiting the use of the device to emergencies and training. The FCC has continued to do so in recent findings. The staff now has granted applications for authorization filed by a number of public safety agencies, and denied objections from the ARRL and other filers.

“The amateurs are not yet out of options,” Lazarus says; hams could appeal to the full commission and on to an appeals court. “In the meantime, though, police and fire departments around the country will have the benefit of the Recon Scout’s lifesaving technology. As one police official put it, during early testing of the device, ‘We don’t feel comfortable without this thing now.’”

Read Lazarus’post.