Google wants the FCC to give it access to wireless frequencies to help it test its drones. Google bought drone maker Titan Aerospace back in April and now seems to want to test out transmissions back and forth with the drones, but it’s going to need access to some of the bandwidth used for wireless communication to test it out. The application to the FCC indicates that it is just for tests right now, but Google could face some steep regulatory hurdles before getting permission.
When Google bought Titan, most speculation was on how Google would use it to broadcast the Internet all over the world. Google has been intent on that kind of project, not only with drones, but with balloons via its Project Loon, or through satellites placed into orbit. That may not be what Google is trying to do here though.
“The emission designator they specify for the drone-to-ground transmission is specifically for analog video and not for data transmission,” wrote Steven Crowley, an engineer posted about the filing on his blog. “So, on paper, this is not an internet access test.”
What purpose the video transmission will serve could go several ways. Beyond the obvious video beaming to mobile devices, it might relate to Google’s mapping efforts or other project. Even if it gets permission from the FCC, it will still have to contend with the FAA’s ban on commercial drones. That means even more special permission, unless it waits to see what the FAA’s guidelines for drones look like when they come out at the end of the year.
It will be very interesting to see if Google can get first off the mark with these kinds of drones. It’s already been testing a kind of lower-flying commercial drone in Australia, but the Titan drones, which stay way up in the atmosphere for long periods of time, are very different.
You can see a bit of what Google’s drones in action might look like in this video.