March 31, 2017–LAS VEGAS – The governing board of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council today approved reports on broadband deployable systems (BBDS) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Today’s meeting was held here in conjunction with the IWCE conference.
The 254-page broadband deployable systems report, the culmination of work that began in 2014, includes 18 conclusions and 16 proposed action items for deployable systems. Among other things, the report says that public safety agencies will need the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) to include broadband deployable capabilities, such as in vehicles and backpacks, and that the seamless transition of connectivity between deployable solutions and the macro network is important.
“Your work is absolutely critical in terms of filling the gap in coverage,” Kevin McGinnis, a member of the NPSTC board and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board, told Claudio Lucente, chair of the working group that prepared the report. “This is one of the most critical tasks in all that we are going to do,” Harlin McEwen said of broadband deployable systems.
The board also closed the broadband deployable systems working group.
The report recommends that FirstNet and its partner, which is AT&T, Inc., “determine and articulate the role of BBDS technology, including rules regarding the licensing, procurement, and operation of these systems by local public safety agencies. The NPSBN operator must provide nationally standardized guidance on the use of BBDS.”
The report also said that the “NPSBN management and its operator should prepare interoperability guidelines for BBDS due to the use of multi-vendor equipment and multi-agency governance of these systems.” FirstNet also “should ensure that network design and planning includes necessary components and strategies to allow for future successful usage of BBDS at and across the international border, ensuring that authorized first responders may access BBDS infrastructure from either country during an emergency.” FirstNet also “should identify minimum mandatory requirements for BBDS in order to set the required level of interoperability between agencies and BBDS from different vendors,” the report said.
“Technical challenges with BBDS identified in this report should be evaluated by the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Lab and other government organized or sponsored entities for validation. BBDS technology and product offerings are changing rapidly,” according to the report. “Additional research and public safety collaboration is needed to establish best practices for the provision of mission critical services via a BBDS.”
“A set of Best Practices for the deployment of BBDS technology should be created to help ensure that the BBDS solution matching the needs of the incident is dispatched at the right time,” the report also suggested. “There may be more than one BBDS in a region that can support public safety. First responders will need guidance on how to select the best BBDS solution based on mission requirements.”
The 16-page UAS report approved today is the first from NPSTC’s UAS and robotics working group. It includes guidelines for creating a UAS program, including by identifying components that must be evaluated by public safety agencies.
“The purpose of this report is not to deliver an all-inclusive process for the establishment of a UAS program, but instead to provide recommendations and considerations, as well as links to current information in what is a rapidly growing and changing environment,” it said.
Among other things, the report discusses UAS privacy issues. “Technology frequently evolves more rapidly than the regulations and laws to govern its use. While it can be argued that the data collected from UAS is no different from that collected from manned aircraft, privacy advocates have some concerns,” the report noted. “For one, UAS are smaller and quieter than manned aircraft, so it may not always be obvious to a person that they are being monitored. In addition, it is less expensive to gather data using UAS instead of manned aircraft, and much more data will be gathered as a result.”
“Agencies are strongly advised to consult with their legal departments on legal and constitutional issues surrounding the use of unmanned aircraft systems before launching their program,” the report recommended. “While the legal issues surrounding UAS use are rapidly evolving as the courts consider them, significant guidance can be found in existing constitutional law addressing other technologies. Any UAS policy should always take those privacy concerns into consideration and include a comprehensive framework for separating data and mission guidelines that do and do not require a warrant.”
The next task of the UAS working group will be to focus on UAS and aerial communications.
The board today also authorized its Spectrum Management Committee to update a report on 700 megahertz band nationwide deployable trunked solutions that was originally released with the National Regional Planning Council in 2015 (TRDaily, Oct. 23, 2015).
Also at today’s meeting, Barry Fraser, the chairman of a new NPSTC working group studying the Internet of things, said it is trying to examine what public safety needs to know about IoT and to perhaps “develop use cases.” He said it also likely will produce recommendations for NPSTC, which could include the need to prepare educational materials or submit comments in ongoing proceedings. “We’re just getting off the ground,” he said.
Also at the meeting, Dusty Rhoads, chief of the Partnerships Branch at the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications, said the National Governors Association is expected to release a report within a few weeks on a recent policy academy on emergency communications interoperability. The states involved in the initiative were Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Utah, and West Virginia.
Mr. Rhoads also noted that OEC is conducting a nationwide baseline assessment of public safety communications capabilities. He urged NPSTC members to encourage the public safety community to respond to a survey that will be conducted by SAFECOM on current capabilities. The survey will hopefully be distributed this summer, he said. The survey will be open for 30 days.
Dereck Orr, chief of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Public Safety Communications Research Division, told the NPSTC gathering that panels are currently reviewing 162 applications for the PSCR program’s $30 million to advance research, development, and testing of key broadband technologies useful to public safety agencies. Final selections should begin by mid-April and awards will be made on “a rolling manner in May.”
There was also discussion today of yesterday’s announcement that AT&T has signed a 25-year contract with FirstNet to build the nationwide public safety network (TRDaily, March 30).
“It’s been a quiet week on the FirstNet front,” Mr. McGinnis said to laughter during his update on FirstNet’s activities.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” said Mr. McEwen, who is stepping down as chairman of FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee. “Public safety needs to pay close attention and continue to be engaged.”
Also at today’s meeting, NPSTC celebrated its 20th anniversary. – Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org