As some many may have heard, GetFPV / Lumenier was recently fined by the FCC. This has caused no small amount of fear and consternation in the community, many of which are now once again wondering if they need a Ham license (short answer: as much as you need a drivers license in a car).
Tim Nilson posted a response to the whole issue, and brings up a good point. I’m going to paste it here, and add in some commentary as well.
As many of you have heard, GetFPV (Lumenier Holdco LLC) was fined by the FCC for $180k. I want to provide some background and details as to what happened here, if you’re interested.
GetFPV, from the beginning of its existence, has sold VTXs that are used by FPV pilots who must have an FCC Technician’s license, also known as a HAM license, to operate this equipment. We were always upfront about the user needing to have the proper license and that they needed to know the laws that apply in their country where they want to use this equipment. We also always published all the frequencies that the various VTXs were transmitting on, their power levels, etc.
It turns out that some transmitters (not all) that we sold in the past had either frequencies that fell outside the permissible amateur bands or some that were running on power levels above the permissible 1W output.
This is a big issue I have here. They should have had someone along the way go “Wait… how does this fit with FCC regs?” Just have a couple guys on staff with a bit of knowledge of these regs who can scribble their name and say they think it’s OK.
If they did have a guy like that, then they either didn’t do their job right or someone higher up willfully said “Nah… screw the regulations. We’re going to sell this anyway.”
Either way – not a great thing to instill confidence.
Many pieces of equipment used in RC do not require you to have a HAM license to operate it. Much of the usual RC equipment has been registered with the FCC by the manufacturer and carries an FCC registration number. An example of this type of equipment would be a Spektrum radio made by Horizon. To use a Spektrum radio, you won’t need a HAM license. You can buy it and use it to fly a drone or RC plane because the manufacturer hired a lab licensed by the FCC to ensure it operates on the appropriate power level, frequency, etc. But for the vast majority of FPV equipment (like VTXs), manufactures typically can’t get an FCC registration number due to the power level or the frequencies used. That equipment operates in the amateur radio bands/frequencies and will require the operator, you, to have a HAM license.
As I’ve said many times before (even in this intro) – it’s like a driver’s license, but specific to your VTX. If you want to use the gear, you need the license.
Generally, the fear by the FCC is that equipment that operates on unauthorized frequencies will interfere with important systems like air traffic control or other similarly important services. In our company’s history, however, we know of not a single case where an FPV VTX has interrupted or caused interference with a critical service like the ones I mentioned.
Funny things about regulations. Sometimes they’re the ounce of prevention rather than a pound of cure.
I would have preferred that the FCC alerted us about the issue, gave us an opportunity to correct what we thought was acceptable, and worked with us constructively. Instead, they contacted us in April and requested information, we provided all requested information, and immediately complied by removing transmitters that are outside their guidelines. Even though we did all this, they still felt the need to punish us with a significant fine that is in no relation to the revenues or profits we generated from selling the equipment in question. They also don’t share how they come up with their fine. Seems a little totalitarian to me, but what can we do.
A bit whiny, but I get it. I think also whoever filed the complaint with the ARRL should have tried to work with GetFPV. Someone should have flagged whatever was bad there when noticed to the vendor.
I would say that most retailers selling FPV equipment such as VTXs have sold or are still selling transmitters like the ones at issue we used to sell on GetFPV. That means that the FCC will likely pass out more fines like the one we received. While the FCC may have started with the biggest company in the space, they are just getting started. I also want to urge all of you reading this to get your HAM license if you don’t yet have it. It’s easy enough to get.
I completely agree with this entire paragraph. This paragraph is exactly why I wanted
In closing, I have to say that I find it extremely unfortunate that the FCC fines small companies like GetFPV which are US based, while ignoring Chinese based online shops that continue to sell this equipment to US consumers without any risk of ever getting in trouble.
They’re Chinese companies. In China. US laws really don’t apply to them. When you’re importing the hardware, the legal onus is on the importer typically. The most jurisdiction the FCC has is over companies like Banggood with a US warehouse and there it’s only over what’s in the US warehouse.
For our GetFPV customers, you can rest assured that if you buy equipment at GetFPV.com now and have a HAM license, you’ll be operating within the legal framework. If you have any questions about what is or is not allowed, you can always ask our Customer Service team. While this FCC fine was unnecessary and hurt us, we’ll be ok and will continue to focus on what’s important: servicing our customers with the best FPV gear and great customer service.
But… I won’t say it’s unnecessary. They hit the biggest fish in their pond with a stick, and they sure as hell got the attention of the community. By doing that they may be able to not only get other vendors to get their house in order before the FCC comes knocking.
In addition it has started a conversation within our community about getting that license which allows them to get a lot of pilots through that pipeline of getting their license without them having to bust “pirate” FPV VTXs.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
Lumenier & GetFPV