NCC calls for strict regulations of drone usage, reviews guidelines on spectrum deployment

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Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has called the stakeholders to review the guidelines on the use of the 2.4 and 5.8 GHZ bands as the frequency for deployment of drones and other emerging technologies in Nigeria.

Speaking at the Stakeholders Consultative Forum on regulation of drones with spectrum perspective and presentation of the reviewed guidelines on 2.4 GHZ and 5.8 GHZ Spectrum held in Lagos on Wednesday, the Director, Spectrum Administration, Nigerian Communications Commission, Engr. (Dr.) Austin Nwaulune, who noted that the deployment of drones has increased in the country, said there is need for regulation of its use from the perspective of spectrum.

He said: “The drone market is scaling rapidly and delivering enriched services in the process. The wealth of new applications of this new technology and the role that stakeholders can play is very critical. This forum has been organized to bring together all stakeholders featuring drone experts, operators, law enforcement agencies and business representatives to discuss and share their views on development trends and innovative applications of drone industry as well as the technicalities associated with deployments of drones relates to spectrum from the standpoint of Spectrum use.

“There are a number of challenges in fully realizing the potential for growth that drones bring with them. One of these challenges is meeting the spectrum requirements for drone. Frequency Spectrum is used for command and control (ie, sense and avoid) and identification as well as for payload transmissions (e.g. on-board cameras sending information to the ground).

“Currently, the Nigerian Communications Commission in its effort to optimize usage and benefits of the spectrum is advancing the administrative standards by establishing technical parameters to use the 2.4 and 5.8 GHZ bands as the frequency for deployment of drones and other emerging technologies.

“Over the years, the Commission has had guidelines on both the use of 2.4 GHZ and 5.8 GHz Bands for Wireless Access System (WAS). And these are all license-exempt bands (ISM Bands) which studies have shown to be suitable for drone’s deployment globally. However, the prevailing guidelines on the use of 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz band do not cover the general requirements for the control of drones and payload links such as on-board cameras, sensors, etc. some of these requirements include technical parameters such as transmitting power, coverage distance, modulation schemes etc. that were not envisaged at the time the existing guidelines were being crafted.

“In view of this development and in line with the Commission’s agenda of optimizing the full benefit of spectrum, facilitating strategic collaboration and partnership so as to ensure regulatory excellence and operational efficiency, the Commission invited all stakeholders and key representatives from the Communications sector to share and constructively exchange ideas and discuss how to foster innovation and growth in the industry.

“As you may know, Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV) Technology otherwise known as drone has gone through massive development in recent years, and the market for drones shows exponential growth, similar to all other significant new Technologies.

“Drones have found application in several areas that are contributing to the development of nations. These include security surveillance, shipping and delivery, disaster management, rescue operations, and healthcare, archaeological surveys, geographic mapping, law enforcement, safety inspection. agriculture, wildlife monitoring, etc.

“The security of any nation typically involves conducting consistent surveys of potential flashpoints in order to ensure the protection of the populace and the entire environment. Using drones, in this case, could be an interesting idea. This reduces manual labor and affords a wider field of view. This also does not hamper the normal lives of the people as they do not have to enter these dangerous areas themselves.

“Drones have a lot of potential, in terms of law enforcement, these devices have the innate ability to hover around locations without drawing much attention from the people. Thus, this can be used for surveillance or for public safety.

“One of the most important applications for these drones lies in disaster management. It is often seen that there is utter chaos and mismanagement of resources soon after a disaster, be it man-made or natural calamity. Drones could help significantly by coordinating valuable resources and eliminating the need for a vast amount of manpower, these drones could be of great help immediately following a disaster, to save lives.

“Today, the world of commerce has really conquered the idea of using drones to its fullest extent. The shipping and delivery of applications of drones have revolutionized the world of shipping delivery, significantly improving delivery times and reducing human intervention. Be it delivering pizzas, letters, or even small parcels, these programmed drones could do the work excellently and efficiently.

“Simply put, drones can easily reach places that many humans cannot, and this can be invaluable when timely rescues are critical. Usually, a rescue operation is a fight against time. There is usually a need to get the drones to work fast and smoothly. This is where drones come in handy. With the help of thermal sensors, drones can locate lost persons.

“They are also especially useful at night or even in challenging terrains.”

Meanwhile, stakeholders called for global harmonisation of spectrums to avoid interference of networks in the use of drones.

They also said that a framework needs to be set up to ensure strict compliance for drone usage.

“We recommend that there should be stronger synergy among stakeholders especially NCC, ONSA and NCAA.

“With the increasing demand for drone usage, a more robust stand should be taken towards developing advanced technologies for monitoring and localisation of drones by regulators,” they said.

Some of the reviewed guidelines on 2.4 and 5.8 GHZ Spectrum for the drone users are that anybody using drone must make it known to the commission.

Again, the proposed parameters for the drones command and control and payload downlink (data & video) communication are: Modulation – FHSS, DSSS, PSK, WiFi, Bluetooth; Power limit – 4 Walt; Maximum allowable coverage distance – not more than 5 kilometer and that the device should not be used near Mobile Base Station, High Voltage Power lines and around the Airports.

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