On January 4, 2023, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) setting forth proposed rules for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems in the 5030-5091 MHz band. At present, unmanned aircraft systems primarily operate under the FCC’s rules for unlicensed and low-power communications or according to experimental licenses. Neither of these spectrum resources provide the user with the right to protection from harmful interference, meaning that communications using such resources can be unreliable. The FCC’s proposed rules attempt to address this issue by granting unmanned aircraft systems access to licensed spectrum with the resilience to support more advanced and secure communications.

To further develop this goal, the FCC is seeking comment on several topics, including:

  • Its proposed band plan and service rules for unmanned aircraft operations in the 5030-5091 MHz band;
  • Whether the FCC’s rules are adequate to ensure coexistence of terrestrial mobile operations and unmanned aircraft systems use, or whether changes to the FCC’s rules are necessary; and
  • A proposal for unmanned aircraft system operators to obtain a license in the aeronautical VHF band to communicate with air traffic control and other aircraft.

Comments on these issues and all questions raised in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking are due no later than 30 days after publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register. Upon publication in the Federal Register, we will release a further post specifying the exact comment deadline.

If you have any questions about the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or communications law and regulation, please contact a Sheppard Mullin communications attorney.