WHITE PAPER: Wireless networks are key to unlocking drones’ potential

Via CTIA Resource Library

Nov 14, 2017

November 13, 2017 By: Kevin Ryan

Today, CTIA released a new white paper on behalf of the wireless industry calling for policymakers to unleash the full economic and societal benefits of drones.

Drones are poised to transform American industries—like delivery logistics, public safety, media, construction, etc.—thanks to their ability to accomplish tasks more efficiently, safely, and inexpensively than techniques used today. In order to realize this potential, drones need a secure and reliable communications network. This is where wireless networks come in. Powered by licensed spectrum, they provide the coverage, reliability, security, and service quality needed for safe commercial drone applications. The paper, Commercial Wireless Networks: The Essential Foundation of the Drone Industry, can be found here.

To discuss the role that wireless networks play, the key steps government needs to take, and the work CTIA is leading in the drone/UAV space, we turned to our drone expert, Jackie McCarthy, Assistant Vice President of Regulatory Affairs:

Q: How will drones revolutionize American industries?

A: The evolution of drones will impact nearly every industry sector. Everything from consumer package delivery— including the delivery of medications— to search and rescue missions, news reporting (especially in dangerous situations), filmmaking, and even property or infrastructure inspections will benefit from the availability of drones for commercial use.

Q: Can you update us on CTIA’s work on drones?

A: CTIA is focused on educating policymakers on the role of wireless networks in safe and reliable drone operations. We launched our Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Working Group to bring the industry together to advocate for the spectrum and wireless infrastructure policies that will enable drone communications. CTIA partners with all levels of government on developing drone policy and we’re proud to be part of the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee, the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council, and a close partner of NASA’s on research projects related to low-altitude drone traffic management.

Q: What is needed from a policy perspective to make commercial drone deployment a reality?

A: Policymakers should take the following steps to create a regulatory environment that ensures the benefits promised by the safe, commercial operation of drones will be realized:

  • Endorse commercial wireless networks for UAS communications . The FAA should recommend commercial wireless networks as the preferred communications platform for small, low-altitude drones because of their coverage, reliability, bandwidth and security capabilities.
  • Create a unified national framework for drone use . The FAA should set safety and operational standards for drones. As a first step, CTIA welcomes the recent White House UAS Integration Pilot Program that creates public-private partnerships with state, local, and tribal governments to test UAVs in local airspace.
  • Adopt flexible, risk-based FAA drone policies. To encourage innovation and avoid delays in testing, policymakers should act quickly to adopt a risk-based regulatory structure for small drones that uses commercial wireless networks for flights beyond the visual line of sight, meaning beyond where the human eye can see them.
  • Continue to partner with industry. Policymakers should continue to partner with the private sector to unleash new drone technologies. NASA’s partnership with industry members to develop UAS traffic management systems is a great example of how public-private partnerships can enable safe drone operations.
  • Free up more spectrum & modernize infrastructure rules . Policymakers should open up more spectrum for small, low-altitude UAS communications needs and remove barriers to the deployment of cell sites, towers, and antennas that extend next-generation wireless coverage and capacity.
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