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3D Wireless: The Promise and Challenges of Next-Generation Space and Airborne Wireless Systems Conference Report

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Abstract: As the number of airborne and space systems increases, their coordination becomes more challenging. This proliferation of wireless devices operating above the Earth may lead to several types of collisions. One potential risk is physical collisions. A second risk is the collision of signals within the receivers of the devices, known as interference. Finally, there may be collisions of regulations as operators work to comply with a range of national and international rulemaking bodies. To examine these issues, the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship held a conference titled 3D Wireless: The Promise and Challenges of Next-Generation Space and Airborne Wireless Systems with industry experts on October 4, 2017. Participants explored ways that airborne and space systems’ use of physical space and the radio spectrum could be improved to support innovation, while also protecting public safety and incumbent operators. They offered a series of recommendations to accomplish these goals, including: • Better coordinating satellites to prevent pollution of space by collision debris; • Reusing spectrum by having radio links look outside of the equatorial band to satellites with orbits that do not stay directly over the equator; • Using multi-stakeholder groups and risk-based interference assessments to address interference issues; • Allowing overlays, which permit new rights in the marketplace that are subordinate to existing transmission rights; • Encouraging projects like NASA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management, which would provide identification and tracking services for drones that are currently in the air; • Recognizing that drones are not fully autonomous today, and better educating operators of their responsibility to fly drones safely; and • Scaling production and pursuing vertical integration within companies to reduce per-unit costs. These steps, along with other suggestions detailed in this report, should aid in the process of bolstering innovation, while protecting public safety and incumbent operators in the airborne and space systems industry.

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