Experimental Radio Applications at the FCC

This summarizes a selection of applications for the Experimental Radio Service received by the FCC during June 2010. These are related to aircraft systems, WiMAX, sports telecast support, public safety communications, tactical cellular service, medical telemetry, satellite, antennas, radar, white-space devices, weapons telemetry, spacecraft communications, and broadcasting.

  • AAI/Textron Systems Corporation filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for experimental license. The company wants to test its Shadow 200, Aerosonde, Orbiter and other unmanned aircraft systems. This is related to work for the United States Marine Corp. Operation is to be on 310-390 MHz, 902-928 MHz, 1090 MHz, 1350-1390 MHz, 1700-1859 MHz, and 4400-4999 MHz. Transmitting equipment is manufactured by Microhard Systems Corporation, Free Wave Technologies, Advanced Microwave Products, Global Microwave Systems, and Microair Avionics.

FCC staff has asked for several items of information before approving the application. The FAA operates in the frequency bands 328.6-335.4 MHz, 1090 MHz, and 1215-1390 MHz; FCC staff asks for coordination of these bands with the FAA Regional Office. In addition, the frequency bands 225-328.6 MHz and 335.4-399.9 MHz are used for military purposes, and the applicant was asked to coordinate with NTIA’s Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC).

  • AAI/Textron Systems Corporation also filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for special temporary authority to operate on 420-450 MHz and 2000-2400 MHz for a government project apparently involving the Orbiter miniature unmanned aircraft system. There is not much information about the proposed operation, and FCC staff has asked for more details.

In correspondence to the applicant, FCC staff notes that the “Aerospace & Flight Test Radio Coordinating Council (AFTRCC) oversees the frequency bands; 1435-1525 MHz, 2310-2320 MHz, and 2345-2390 MHz. These frequency bands need to be removed or need to be prior coordinated.”

  • Sportvision filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for special temporary authority for testing of an automobile race track wireless data system that is to provide data communications between vehicles in a race track and one or more fixed base stations installed along a track. Operation is to be on 2395-2400 MHz.

One application seen for this system is video image enhancement for television broadcasting of automobile racing events. The would allow television viewers to see, displayed on screen, the real-time location of cars during a racing event.

The vehicles would be equipped with GPS receivers and other sensors that generate a data packet every 200 milliseconds. The wireless system would collect those packets and deliver them to a control station in real time. “The radio itself is a direct sequence spread spectrum unit, using production radios for 2.4 GHz. The system may ultimately be deployed on an unlicensed basis in the 2.4 GHz band or elsewhere, but the high noise levels in that band in the test locations (commercial automobile race tracks) are unsuitable for development and testing of the product.”

“An Intersil baseband processor performs the Direct Sequence modulation and demodulation. It is part of a five-chipset developed for the 802.11b standard. It uses 1/4th of the standard 802.11 speed resulting in a narrow occupied RF bandwidth.”

The frequency band requested is allocated on a primary basis to the Amateur Radio Service, and coordination is to be performed with the ARRL. This application was granted on June 4.

  • Motorola filed an application (with supporting exhibit (as amended)) for special temporary authority to “test, evaluate and demonstrate a prototype radio communications system designed to support the internal communications requirements, including public safety-related communications, of an electric power generation and transmission cooperative in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

According to Motorola, “[o]peration under this experimental STA will be conducted on a non-interference basis on a limited number of 12.5 kHz channel pairs in the 151.4725-154.5675 MHz band and the 157.1875-162.9625 MHz band.”

  • Raytheon Network Centric Systems filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for experimental license. Raytheon says it is working to build a “NetWarrior Communications System” using GSM technology. The primary use for this experimental license would be to test and evaluate this system while in development and conduct demonstrations for military and government officials.

The system is called GSMnet and is described as a unique communication solution that provides the ability to create a self-contained, privately managed mobile network based on GSM cellular standards. The enabling technology of GSMnet is said to allow military personnel to manage mobile phone access on the GSMnet communications infrastructure, delivering seamless cellular communications coverage to deployed military personnel and critical incident responders in remote or hazardous environments or when conditions have rendered existing GSM cellular networks inaccessible.

Operation is to be on 1922.6, 1927.4, 2112.6, and 2117.4 MHz. This application was granted on June 15.

  • Sierra Nevada Corporation filed an application for special temporary authority to conduct flight testing of X-NET Air WiMax transceiver radio devices. The flight tests will determine the range of the data communications that can be achieved and the data throughput that can be achieved at different ranges.

As background, the C4N (Command, Control, Computers, Communications, and Networks) Division of the Sierra Nevada Corporation has developed an air-ground data communications link under contract with the USAF Rivet Joint aircraft operations as a part of the Big Safari Program. The Sierra Nevada equipment is called the X-NET Air System. It is a dual channel FDD radio link. Operation is to be on 2675 and 2685 MHz. This application was granted on June 28.

  • Raysat Antenna Systems filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for special temporary authority to operate up to five Land Mobile-Satellite Service (LMSS) earth stations with the AMC-5 and AMC-6 satellites at 79° W.L. and 72° W.L., respectively. The company seeks to test and demonstrate the new SR70 earth terminal, a single-panel, Ku-band array antenna in connection with Department of Defense/Logistics Innovation Agency (DOD/LIA). Operation is requested at 14.0-14.5 MHz.

“The SR-70 antenna technology builds upon RAS’s proven antenna technology for mobile applications. The major enhancement is in the antenna panel which is capable of simultaneous Ku-band transmission and reception within the 14.0-14.5 GHz and 11.7- 12.7 GHz bands, respectively. The antenna allows tracking in three axes, azimuth, elevation and polarization.”

“The antenna consists of a single 6 inch by 6 inch panel array which is mounted on a rotatable platform. The platform rotates in azimuth to orient the panel towards the satellite. The panel also tilts to set the elevation angle. Finally, the antenna has a polarization control mechanism which sets the correct polarization angle for both transmit and receive.”

“During operation, the antenna uses a built-in GPS receiver to determine its position on the earth. It then uses the geographical position and the longitudinal position of the satellite to determine the appropriate elevation angle. Once the elevation angle is set, the antenna rotates in azimuth. During the scanning process the antenna receives Eb/No information from the modem to verify that the target satellite has been acquired. Once the satellite is acquired, the antenna dithers in both azimuth and elevation by ±2.0° to maintain peaking on the satellite and the transmission is enabled. The antenna also has internal 3-axis gyroscopes and 2-axis inclinometers to help with the tracking while the antenna is in motion.”

This application was granted on June 16.

  • Lockheed Martin filed an application (with supporting exhibits) to experiment with a swept-frequency radar system operating at various frequencies between 1.0 and 15.4 GHz. The radar transmit-and-receive system will be coherently frequency step-chirped from the start frequency to the final frequency, with a pulse width of 95 ns. Other details are said to be classified; Lockheed Martin has requested confidential treatment of this application, and FCC staff has responded to the company asking for justification.
  • Aircell, a provider of Wi-Fi service aboard aircraft (under the GoGo brand) filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for experimental license to conduct FAA-required tests to determine the susceptibility of aircraft avionics to interference from radio frequency emissions from consumer devices operating in Wi-Fi bands. Aircell says it must demonstrate conformance to those standards to receive FAA Supplemental Type Certificates necessary for the deployment of its service aboard commercial airliners. Testing is to be on 2400.0-2483.5 MHz, 5250-5350 MHz, and 5725-5825 MHz.

Aircell says that “[p]ursuant to Documents DO-294B and DO-160 of the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RCTA), and the FAA, standards for testing the susceptibility of avionics to interference have been set. To comply with these standards, tests within an aircraft must radiate at the legal maximum power authorized for the radiating device, plus the link budget of the highest gain antenna permitted, times the number of simultaneous radiating devices. For the purpose of Aircell’s tests, the math computes a 1 watt signal into a 6 db gain antenna times three wireless access points (WAP). That comes to 30 dBm + 6 dB = 4 watts X 3 WAPs = 12 watts. Since the 12 watt signal exceeds the allowed limits for unlicensed devices, an Experimental License is required.”

  • Clearwire Spectrum Holdings III filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for experimental license to test WiMAX IEEE 802.16m technology in the Phoenix, Arizona market. (The 802.16m standard is now being finalized in IEEE 802.) Clearwire says it is evaluating 802.16m and other 4G technologies “as a potential technology evolutionary strategy.” Clearwire is planning to test overlay 802.16e WiMAX using 10 MHz channels, Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) using 20 MHz channels, and Time Division Duplex (TDD) using 20 MHz channels. Operation is to be on 2496-2690 MHz.

Equipment from “many vendors” will be evaluated. Many tests are to be performed, including those for end-to-end system performance, mobility management, MIMO, scheduler and QoS, base-station RF characteristics, self-organizing networks, and VoIP. This application was granted on June 29.

  • Flight Research, Inc. filed an application (with supporting exhibit) for experimental license to operate on 2.4 GHz to send NTSC video from a small aircraft to ground. A Strain Security transmitter is to be installed in a Cessna 150 aircraft operating as a surrogate UAV. (SUAV). The SUAV is to fly locally as an academic exercise for students in a UAV flight test short course that is part of the National Test Pilot School. Students will execute tests in remotely-piloted and command-directed modes from a ground control element, collecting data employing typical flight test techniques and evaluating the system. Part of that training involves sending video from the aircraft to the ground. (Much of this information was not in the original application but was supplied by e-mail to FCC staff later.)

  • Global Technical Systems filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for special temporary authority to test an aircraft-mounted ground-penetrating radar. In the test, a metal target will be buried 6 feet underground and illuminated by the radar for 60 seconds on each pass of the aircraft, which will be flying at 10,000 feet above ground. Data will be collected for ground processing.

Correspondence between the applicant and FCC staff reveals some confusion as to the frequency of operation. It seems it will be in the 1250-1400 MHz range.

  • InterDigital filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for experimental license to conduct research using vacant spectrum in the television broadcast bands (the “white spaces”) for indoor testing of fixed and portable white-space devices. InterDigital says its “goal is to develop technology and enable products for efficient use of bandwidth by combining the advantages of multiple radio access technologies and frequency bands.” “InterDigital plans to test technology that provides cost effective options for wireless distribution of various data types including, for example, broadband content (video) and machine-to-machine packets.” “Another goal of the experimentation is to develop and validate cognitive radio technology.”

In correspondence to the applicant, FCC staff asks for details on how InterDigital plans to prevent interference to TV licensees. The links above are for an application for operation in Melville, New York. An essentially-identical application was also filed for operation in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

  • Panasonic Avionics Corporation filed an application (with supporting exhibit) for experimental license for ground and flight testing of up to twenty aircraft earth stations (AESs) of two AES types – ten MELCO reflector terminals and ten Aura LE terminals – to further test and demonstrate the functionality of its eXConnect Ku-band Aeronautical Mobile-Satellite Service (“AMSS”) system. The company says eXConnect is to provide broadband internet access, real-time video content, voice and other services aboard commercial aircraft.

The company does not envision formal launch of the eXConnect system onboard U.S. commercial airlines in the near term. It is, however, preparing an FCC blanket license application for authority to operate eXConnect AESs on a full commercial basis. In the meantime, the company wants to conduct limited market studies. Operation is to be on 14.000-14.470 GHz.

  • Virginia Tech Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group (MPRG) filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for special temporary authority to perform experiments related to new TV band (white space) devices.

The Group intends to test prototype TV white space devices to determine how their operation will affect other co-channel and adjacent-channel users, such as wireless microphones and other professional audio equipment that is commonly operated in the television bands. Frequencies will be coordinated prior to operation by the local SBE frequency coordinator. Operation is to be on 512-608 MHz and 614-698 MHz.

  • Lockheed Martin filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for special temporary authority to test a Harris model RF-7800S-TR radio as a potential weapon data link to provide in-flight moving target location updates to a weapon to facilitate engaging moving surface targets. The objective of the test is to evaluate the affects of message rate, latency and bit-error-rate on target engagement and determine a realistic target engagement envelope. A larger goal is to demonstrate this class of radio as a viable option to improving moving target strike effectiveness and support the development of low cost, low collateral damage weapons. Operation will be on 350-450 MHz.
  • GlySens Incorporated filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for experimental license to test implantable electronic medical devices on 433.92 MHz. The company has requested confidential processing of its application, so few other details are publicly available from the FCC. This application was granted on June 28.

This is likely related to the company’s announced development of a long-term continuous glucose monitoring system that is designed to provide an unobtrusive means to continuously track glucose levels in people with diabetes. The system is has two parts: a long-lived fully-implanted sensor and an external monitor with a display. The sensor continuously monitors glucose levels in subcutaneous tissue, which are correlated to blood glucose levels. The sensor transmits the glucose measurements wirelessly to the  external display device. This device indicates the current blood glucose level, shows a historical chart of the previous blood glucose values, provides adjustable automatic warnings of high and low blood glucose readings, and stores information for analysis.

  • Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) filed an application for special temporary authority to use telemetry, ranging, and video transmitters for the second launch campaign of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The vehicle will be launched for NASA from Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, under launch authorities granted by the U.S. Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration. SpaceX is under an active STA for this, but due to delays the STA will expire before launch. This application is to continue that authority, as the FCC does not grant extensions for experimental STAs.

SpaceX will utilize a telemetry and video transmitter on both the first and second stages of the vehicle, plus a C-band ranging transmitter on the vehicles second stage. The first stage will begin transmitting 15 minutes prior to launch and remain active for 2.9 minutes after launch. The second stage will continue transmitting for up to 2 hours after launch. Operation will be on 2213.5, 2221.5, 2251.5, 2273.5, and 5765.0 MHz.

In correspondence to the applicant, FCC staff says that the applicant will have to obtain an orbital debris statement from Space Exploration Technologies, Inc., in accordance with 47 CFR, Part 5.63(e) which states, in part, that “Applicants for an experimental authorization involving a satellite system must submit a description of the design and operational strategies the satellite system will use to mitigate orbital debris.”)

  • Professor David Miller from MIT filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for experimental license to transmit spacecraft telemetry on 2.4000-2.4836 GHz. This is in support of testing of the CASTOR (Cathode/Anode Satellite Thruster for Orbital Repositioning) satellite. Testing is to validate the performance and application of Diverging Cusped Field Thruster (DCFT) technology. This will be achieved by taking on-orbit state data to compare the degradation experienced by the DCFT to that of similar technologies such as Hall thrusters.
  • RLM Communications filed an application (with supporting exhibits) for experimental license. Operation is to be on various broadcast bands from 540 kHz to 806 MHz. The company says it is “providing the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) research and development support in the areas of Joint Integration and Compatibility Development System (JCIDS) and Special Operations Forces Integration Development System (SOFCIDS) requirements development, product evaluation and systems testing and training. RLM will be providing training documentation, technical writers, training specialists, electronic technicians and other media support professionals in the upcoming Design Testing (DT), Operational Testing (OT) and new equipment training (NET) for a family of electronic broadcast systems which encompass broadcast radio in AM, FM, SW and television in UHF and VHF analog television and digital television. The nature of the activity will include erecting the antenna system several times, startup up the transmitter and increasing ERP into a dummy load and into the radiating” antennas.