If you listen to the radio bands in the United States, you might wonder if anyone at the FCC is paying attention, or if they are too busy selling spectrum and regulating the Internet. Apparently however, they are watching some things. The commission just levied a $180,000 fine on a company in Florida for selling audio/visual transmitters that use the ham bands as well as other frequencies.
The FCC charged that Lumenier Holdco LLC (formerly known as FPV Manuals LLC) was marketing uncertified transmitters some of which exceeded the 1-W power limit for ham transmitters used on model craft.
Equipment that is purely for ham use is normally exempt from certification, but since the equipment was able to operate on other frequencies, this was a violation. In addition, even for licensed ham use, some of the transmitters were using too much power.
The company stopped selling the units in question after an FCC inquiry back in April. We can’t help but think that in years past building a consumer product with a significant radio transmitter was a big task, and someone would bring up the FCC rules and certifications before much progress had been made. These days though you can easily acquire building block ICs and modules to field a product in a few weeks that would have taken a sophisticated team years of effort not long ago.
We don’t know if that’s what happened to FPV Manuals, but it would be easy to imagine a hacker with an idea and a Kickstarter winding up with a big FCC (or other regulatory) fine. This is an even worse situation now that it is easy to find customers all over the world who are all subject to different laws and regulations.
We covered this story back in January when the ARRL were lobbying about it, so it’s good to see an outcome for them. We’ve talked a bit about what it takes to get products through certifications. Of course, that’s just part of the puzzle of scaling up to production.