[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 116 (Friday, June 15, 2012)]
[Pages 35962-35964]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-14602]



[PS Docket No. 11-15; FCC 12-53]

Utilizing Rapidly Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture 
in Response to an Emergency

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Notice of inquiry.


SUMMARY: In this document, the Commission seeks comment on the role of 
deployable aerial communications architecture (DACA) in facilitating 
emergency response by rapidly restoring communications capabilities in 
the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic event. The Notice of Inquiry 
explores the technologies that are or will be available, including 
innovative DACA technologies that are still in development. It also 
examines technical and operational issues associated with the use of 
DACA technologies, including interference and coordination issues, that 
must be addressed to enable their use, in order to increase the 
capabilities of emergency responders and provide the public with 
connectivity when it is needed the most.

DATES: Comments are due on or before July 25, 2012 and reply comments 
are due on or before August 14, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Comments and reply comments may be filed using: (1) The 
Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), (2) the Federal 
Government's eRulemaking Portal, or (3) by filing paper copies.
    Comments and reply comments may be filed electronically using the 
Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/ or the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
    Parties who choose to file by paper can submit filings by hand or 
messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class 
or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to 
the Commission's Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal 
Communications Commission. All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered 
paper filings for the Commission's Secretary must be delivered to FCC 
Headquarters at 445 12th Street SW., Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 
20554. All hand deliveries must be held together with rubber bands or 
fasteners. Any envelopes must be disposed of before entering the 
    Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express 
Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, 
Capitol Heights, MD 20743. U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, 
and Priority mail must be addressed to 445 12th Street SW., Washington, 
DC 20554. Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and 
four copies of each filing.
    Parties wishing to file materials with a claim of confidentiality 
should follow the procedures set forth in Sec.  0.459 of the 
Commission's rules. Confidential submissions may not be filed via ECFS 
but rather should be filed with the Secretary's Office following the 
procedures set forth in 47 CFR 0.459. Redacted versions of confidential 
submissions may be filed via ECFS.

Communications Commission, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, 
at (202) 418-3619.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Notice 
of Inquiry (NOI or Notice) in PS Docket No. 11-15, FCC 12-53, adopted 
and released on May 24, 2012. The complete text of this document is 
available for inspection and copying during normal business hours in 
the FCC Reference Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street SW., 
Room CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. This document may also be purchased 
from the Commission's duplicating contractor Best Copy and Printing, 
Inc., Portals II, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 
20554, telephone (800) 378-3160 or (202) 488-5300, facsimile (202) 488-
5563, or via email at [email protected]. It is also available on the 
Commission's Web site at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2012/db0524/FCC-12-53A1.pdf. To request materials in 
accessible formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print, 
electronic files, audio format), send an email to [email protected] or 
call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 
(voice), 202-418-0432 (tty).

[[Page 35963]]

Synopsis of the Notice of Inquiry

    This Notice of Inquiry further examines the potential for DACA 
technologies to provide communications when terrestrial communications 
infrastructures are disrupted or disabled due to a catastrophic event. 
To that end we seek comment on the role of DACA, the communication 
service architecture and various DACA platform technologies that are 
currently available or in development, and the scope of their use in 
the aftermath of a catastrophic event, as well as how to best 
coordinate operations and spectrum availability and authorization 
matters. We also seek comment on system performance of DACA 
technologies to include coverage, capacity, interference, power 
consumption, and the interoperability of DACA technologies with 
existing communications services and infrastructure, among other 

A. DACA Technologies

    Several promising DACA technology platforms that could be deployed 
shortly after a disaster to support communications without requiring 
deployment of any special user devices include unmanned aerial 
vehicles, weather balloons, and suitcase based systems. Additional DACA 
technologies also can provide critical communications as either a 
standalone aerial platform or an add-on payload. We seek comment on the 
ability of various DACA technologies to deliver critical communications 
immediately after a catastrophic event. We also seek comment on each 
DACA technology's ability to support existing communication services 
and devices. Are there other technological solutions similar to DACA 
that are ground based that would be equally adept at restoring 
commercial and public safety communications to an area?
    We seek comment on DACA technologies used within the U.S. Armed 
Forces. For instance, what DACA technologies are the United States 
military currently using and in what situations are they used? What 
lessons can we learn from the military's use of these technologies? Are 
there relevant differences between military use and civilian use that 
should be taken into account?
    We seek comment on the availability and cost of DACA technology 
platforms. For instance, are these technologies commercially available 
today? What are the capital costs of DACA platforms, either as 
standalone aerial systems, add-on technologies, or alternative ground 
based solutions? What are the operational costs of these platforms?
    We seek comment on the capabilities of each DACA technology to 
support commercial and public safety communications services. We note 
that other participants in the DACA workshop addressed the cost-
effectiveness of unmanned aerial vehicles, weather balloons, and high 
altitude platforms. How does the cost compare for each system?
    AT&T and AeroVironment have stated that weight may be a limiting 
factor in how many communications payloads DACA technology can support 
at a time. We seek comment on this observation.
    We also seek comment on whether DACA technologies are being used in 
other countries. What has been the experience with these technologies 

B. Scope of DACA Usage and Coordination of Operations

    We seek comment on the appropriate emergency response coordination 
necessary to successfully deploy DACA solutions in the aftermath of a 
catastrophic event to establish emergency communications. For instance, 
how can an Incident Command System make use of DACA solutions?
    We also seek comment on real-time coordination during emergency 
response efforts when using DACA solutions. For instance, should any 
agency of the federal government, or a combination of agencies, be 
responsible for coordinating the deployment and use of DACA 
technologies and solutions during emergencies?
    We next seek comment on ensuring that DACA usage complies with the 
regulations and operational constraints of the U.S. national airspace 
system. How should DACA system usage be coordinated with other 
government agencies that have a role with regard to emergency response 
and air traffic control, in particular the Federal Aviation 
Administration (FAA)?
    AT&T states that DACA technologies should only be utilized as a 
last resort, where other existing terrestrial options for restoring 
service are inadequate to address the circumstances, to avoid impeding 
the restoration efforts that carriers typically bring to bear in these 
types of emergency situations. We seek comment on this approach.
    We seek comment on appropriate protocols or procedures to 
coordinate both civilian and military emergency response activities 
involving the use of DACA solutions. More specifically, we request 
comment on how to resolve critical issues that will straddle 
jurisdictional lines, such as determining priorities between military 
and commercial use of DACA systems, and deciding whether to establish 
guidelines for the use of DACA technologies to promote 
    We seek comment on how the control over and operation of DACA 
transmitters would fit into the current framework of the Communications 
Act and our rules, and how the regulatory authority of other agencies 
(e.g., NTIA) will play into their operations.
    We next seek more specific comment on the range of authorization 
mechanisms that may be appropriate for various circumstances in which 
DACA solutions may be deployed. To the extent DACA operations are 
conducted by FCC licensees, what type of adjustments would need to be 
made in our rules? To the extent that third parties own and operate 
DACA solutions that operate over spectrum allocated for Non-Federal 
use, we seek comment on how their operations should be authorized.

C. System Performance

1. Coverage
    We seek comment on how to delineate the affected area for which a 
DACA solution is deployed. We seek comment on how to best achieve as 
much coverage of an affected area as possible. One possibility is to 
deploy DACA platforms in stages, and at multiple altitudes, to quickly 
serve and restore communications. We seek comment on this approach. We 
also seek comment on the ability of DACA technologies to provide 
geographic coverage over all geographies and terrains.
2. Frequency Planning and Minimizing the Potential for Harmful 
    We seek comment on the frequency bands that are most suitable for 
DACA use. On which frequency bands should DACA technologies be 
permitted to operate? Would use of DACA on certain bands interfere with 
public safety or other services? If so, in which bands and what 
solutions are available to minimize interference?
    AT&T suggests that some of its interference concerns can be 
minimized if DACA technologies do not employ the commercial frequency 
bands and instead are limited to those bands used for unlicensed 
operations and other non-cellular-based technologies. We seek comment 
on this observation.
    We seek comment on whether the Commission should authorize a third 
party to develop and maintain frequency assignments and or a

[[Page 35964]]

database(s) to manage the use of DACA solutions to limit the 
interference potential among and between DACA and terrestrial uses. 
Comsearch suggests that ``a centralized database approach offers 
several merits including: standardized data structures and format, 
efficiency in data provisioning, ease of maintenance, high accuracy and 
reliability, and streamlined interaction.'' We seek comment on this 
``centralized database'' approach.
    To ensure that frequency reuse does not cause interference, 
wireless providers must ensure that they coordinate the transmitters in 
their network and coordinate with providers operating in adjacent 
markets on the same frequencies. We seek comment on whether similar 
procedures should be adopted for DACA technologies and, if so, what 
they should include.
    Moreover, other than allocating dedicated spectrum for the use of 
DACA technologies, are there methods to ensure that frequency reuse 
does not cause interference or to minimize any such interference?
    Several comments raised the concern that the use of DACA 
technologies during emergencies could overlap with the restoration of 
terrestrial services, potentially creating interference. We seek 
comment on ways to avoid this problem.
    We also seek comment on DACA signal propagation.
    We also seek comment on directional antennas and any other products 
that can help to mitigate or reduce interference.
    AT&T suggests that the use of tethered aerostats, i.e., aerostats 
tethered to the ground, would minimize interference concerns and 
propagate a more predictable signal, especially if equipped with 
stabilizers to minimize movement of the aerostat that accompanies the 
use of DACA technology. We seek comment on the suitability of tethered 
3. Interoperability
    Interoperability is a central requirement of emergency response 
communications between multiple disciplines and agencies. If DACA 
technologies are used for emergency communications, it is critical to 
ensure that they preserve interoperability for emergency responders. 
How can existing public safety network services be accessed using DACA 
solutions while preserving interoperability?

C. Prioritization of Service and Access

    DACA systems may have limitations in terms of the aggregate volume 
of traffic that can be supported by an aerial platform, due to factors 
such as the size, weight, and power of DACA technologies. Such 
limitations may create a need to examine priorities among the various 
communications services that DACA systems might help restore. We seek 
comment on the issue of prioritizing certain communications services 
immediately following a catastrophic event.

D. International Considerations

    We recognize that radio transmissions, including from DACA 
transmitters, do not recognize political boundaries. Could DACA 
technologies operate in a way that would comply with the signal 
strength limits set forth in these agreements? If DACA technologies are 
unable to comply with technical criteria detailed in existing 
agreements with Canada and Mexico, we seek comment on what types of 
agreement would need to be reached with each country to permit DACA 
operations along the border.

E. Conclusion

    1. Ensuring that communications are available immediately following 
a catastrophic event is critical to emergency response. DACA brings the 
promise of a new tool that can be rapidly deployed and utilized when 
terrestrial infrastructure is not available, potentially facilitating 
the use of day-to-day commercial and public safety devices. This 
capability could save lives. We intend for the record generated by this 
proceeding to provide the opportunity for a thorough discussion of DACA 
technologies and solutions that address system performance, service 
prioritization, and governance issues.
    Accordingly, it is ordered that, pursuant to sections 1, 4(i), 
4(j), 4(o), 7(b), 301, 316 and 403 of the Communications Act of 1934, 
47 U.S.C. 151, 154(i)-(j) & (o), 157(b), 301, 316 and 403, and Sec.  
1.430 of the Commission's rules, 47 CFR 1.430, this Notice of Inquiry 
is adopted.

Federal Communications Commission.
Marlene H. Dortch,
[FR Doc. 2012-14602 Filed 6-14-12; 8:45 am]