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Saturday, September 9 • 11:05am - 11:38am
Spectrum Management Issues for the Operation of Commercial Services with Drones

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Commercial operations for Unmanned Air Vehicles (a.k.a. Drones) are envisioned to allow new services over civilian airspace and neighborhoods. However, a communications infrastructure that supports the control and air traffic management interactions of these devices beyond line of sight operations is required. This infrastructure will rely on wireless communication links and their associated radio frequency spectrum resources for its implementation. This paper aims to present an analysis of current and upcoming spectrum policy issues that need to be taken into account and will affect UAV operations and traffic management in the near future. The analysis incorporates a discussion on potential frequency bands being vacated by the FAA and DoD among others and which could be leveraged for commercial UAV applications.

We also analyze why traditional cellular bands and equipment that were designed for terrestrial services might not be adequate for supporting UAV operations as a drone-based user terminal can be in range of several base stations at the same time and cause interference in a much wider area than that of a terminal in the ground. We provide a regulatory and technical context for discussions on whether commercial UAV operations can and should be supported by the use of spectrum resources managed and operated by commercial wireless service providers (LTE, 5G) or if assigning a specific frequency band for these operations would be better.

We contrast the pros and cons of each approach under current and future expected technological advances related to spectrum management (Dynamic spectrum access, MIMO, etc) in order to provide a spectrum policy based view of how UAV operations could take place in the near future with supporting technical information for its feasibility. Our analysis is further complemented by considering scenarios where drone flight paths are mostly unconstrained (except for FAA rules) or limited most of the time to specific air traffic paths. Each scenario has different spectrum management and agility requirements that provide context on how FAA, FCC and NTIA regulations should coordinate if commercial UAV operations are to take off in the near future.


Carlos Caicedo

Associate Professor, Syracuse University

Saturday September 9, 2017 11:05am - 11:38am EDT
ASLS Hazel Hall - Room 225