Jennifer Richter Comments on Communications Issues for Drones in 2016

Akin Gump communications and information technology partner Jennifer Richter has been quoted in the Consumer Electronics Daily article “Drones Expected To Have Breakout 2016, Experts Tell CES,” following the annual Consumer Electronics Show, which was held recently in Las Vegas.

While some are predicting a big year for drones, Richter pointed out that their expanded use still requires spectrum. “You have to be able to communicate with the drone from the ground to the aircraft, from the aircraft to ground and then also the aircraft themselves have to have the ability to communicate,” she said, though she added that drones do not have to rely on spectrum set aside for aviation and can use both unlicensed and commercially licensed bands as well: “Drones will essentially become another user of the network.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), according to Richter, appears to be “fairly on board” with drones using commercial wireless networks for control, tracking and payload communications. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), however, still have questions about safety and security.

Communications between drones will use different bands than other communications, Richter noted. “There’s different solutions that people are looking at,” including the use of spectrum set aside for automotive collision avoidance, she said. Most drones rely on unlicensed spectrum for command and control. “It’s safe and effective and it’s used worldwide. The FCC continues to support that use,” Richter said, “but in almost every conversation we have, they remind us that the FAA and DHS may not be quite as sanguine as they are about continued use of unlicensed bands because of the potential for unreliable links, lost links, jamming, spoofing, all those kinds of issues.”