Company Fined for Marketing Unathorized Devices to Relay Video from Drones
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 | Comments

The FCC proposed a $2.8 million fine against HobbyKing for marketing 65 models of devices used to relay video from drones to amateur drone operators, which could apparently transmit in unauthorized RF bands, including some that could also operate at excessive transmission power levels. Such unlawful transmissions could interfere with key government and public-safety services such as aviation and weather radar systems. 

Through its website, HobbyKing markets devices that provide a video link between transmitters mounted on unmanned aircraft systems and users flying drones. While HobbyKing represented that its transmitters operated in designated amateur radio bands, the FCC’s investigation found that 65 models of devices marketed by HobbyKing could also apparently operate outside those bands. RF-emitting devices that can operate outside of bands designated for amateur use must obtain FCC certification, yet the devices in question marketed by HobbyKing, apparently were not certified by the commission. 

In addition, amateur equipment used to telecommand model crafts is limited in the power of its radio transmissions. FCC rules limit such signals to 1 watt (W). Three of the transmitter models included in the FCC action apparently operate at significantly higher power levels of 1.5 and 2 W.

Following complaints to the FCC, the Enforcement Bureau opened an investigation into the company’s marketing of RF devices to consumers in potential violation of the Communications Act and Commission’s rules. In response to these complaints, the FCC issued a formal citation to warn the company that it must comply with these requirements. Following further complaints, the FCC ordered the company to provide information on its marketing of AV transmitters. The law requires companies to respond to requests from the FCC for information and to such FCC orders after being warned of possible violations. Yet, HobbyKing provided no further response. 

The full notice of apparent liability is here.

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On 6/7/18, Norm said:
Interesting how selective the Enforcement Division of the FCC is. Clearly HobbyKing is a much more desirable target for the collection of millions in fines than the surveyors who operate illegal unlicensed radio telemetry systems and actually interfere with legitimate business operations.

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