recon robotics exposed



11/18/2010...The reason for this site is to inform both Law Enforcement and Armature Radio operators about the vary real problems with the surveillance robots manufactured by Recon Robotics. The concept that the once collage project came up with is great for both military and law enforcement alike. Unfortunately the company has taken a critical cost cutting shortcut in the execution of the robots. They sought and were granted a special waver to operate the robots video transmitter smack dab in the middle of the 440MHz ham TV section of the 70cM ham band. This waver to part 90 of the FCC rules is unprecedented in its stupidity. First is why would any one want to put a life and safety system in a ham band no less a system you want to be private and secure. There are plenty of dedicated part 90 frequencies and encryption schemes that would have these robots hidden from the public and bad guys they are intended to watch. The big deal is the company took a cheap short cut, they put the robots TV transmitter on 434MHz using standard NTSC (analog) TV transmission. This is the same as all the old consumer TV`s use and the same as most US ham TV operators use. Much more to come as I get time to post. I will include the complete FCC application and waver as well as tons more info.To reed the FCC documents click here.

11/20/2010 A bit of info on your web master. My name is Richard Bach (not the author) I am a ham radio operator who also operates ATV (ham TV). Additionally I have 27 years in the broadcast TV industry and am a certified broadcast television engineer by the SBE (Society of Broadcast Engineers).I was first FCC licensed in the 70`s and put my first ham TV station on the air in 1978. To sum it up I know what I am talking about.

First let us discus the risk to the vary people who may depend on one of these robots for what should be a tactical advantage. It is vary possible that during operation of the robot it could be jammed by a ham operator during normal and legal operation of the ham station. You would not want to be advancing behind a robot and have your screen go blank! Another source of jamming to the robot is the billions of 434MHz part 15 devices that are in operation. Many of these in the areas the robots would be likely deployed. These devices range from VIPER car alarms to garage door openers. While these devices are low power they are prevalent every were. I do not know why RECON would risk litigation for injury or death resulting from a robot being jammed. The next and even more dangerous is that the robots video could help the bad guys by letting them watch the same feed the law enforcement/military are looking at. You may wonder how that could happen? Well a number of ways. The bad guys are getting more and more tech savvy every day and they could find out the same way I did that the robots are transmitting NTSC analog TV in the clear. This means any old TV with a dial tuner can tune below CH 14 UHF and pick up the robot. Next would be to use a modern cable ready set to tune in the robot by setting the set to cable and hooking up a antenna instead of cable. The robot will be in the upper 50`s channel wise. They can also buy a high quality broadcast tuner on EBAY that would have no problem picking up the robots. The most common of these is a Tektronix DS1001 which had an original cost of $6000 but broadcasters and cable operators are dumping them for $50 to $100 on EBAY. I now have 6 of these :-) The next is to actually get a HAM grade ultra high sensitivity down converter/receiver. These retail for $50. Nun of this is a secrete so do not think I am giving the bad guys ideas. In a worst case scenario the robot would key up a local HAM TV repeater and then what the cops thought was a local secure video advantage could be seen for 50+ miles by not only the hams but the bad guys. These are things RECON does not tell its customers!

This is one of my Tek DS1001G tuners set to the RECON robots video transmitter. As you can see not only will the user get a video feed but signal strength letting the user know how close the robot is! This tuner will tune from 53.75MHz to 804.25MHz what this means is that even the military versions of the robot can be tuned in. I am not going to give those out but lets say it was not hard to find them. The reason for the **** after the CH is that the tuner knows it is not a standard TV channel.

What should RECON have done to prevent this from happening. First is to encrypt the video and next move it to a true part 90 frequency were the rules would protect the service of such a device. Seems simple but RECON wants to keep there cost low and profits high so such a move was avoided and RECON went way out of their way to get a waver to run in the HAM band. You do not just accidentally get a waver! If they were to just encrypt and leave the transmitter in the ham bands it would not be long before us hams would crack it and thus defeat the purpose of the encryption.

11/21/2010 Now for the problems and solutions to the interference from the Robots to the Amateur service. At a minimum the robot will occasionally jam a narrow band link portions of the band are used as links for other ham systems. The worst case scenario is that the robot gets into a ham TV repeaters input. Since the robots use the same analog NTSC transmission mode as the ATV repeater, it does not know the difference between a robots video and a legal ham operator. ATV repeaters operate on sync detection, that is if they see sync on the input receiver they turn on the transmitter and retransmit the video and audio on the ATV repeaters output. This is vary much like a FM ham repeater except for the detection of receive signal and the video element. So lets say a police department in or near a big city deploys a RECON ROBOTICS robot thinking they will have a secure feed of video from the bad guys ...when in fact they now have the local ATV repeater keyed and the entire city can ease drop. In the case of my area not only does the city have the ability to ease drop but I am an engineer for a local broadcast TV news station. Not exactly who you want to be watching your secure video feed! I have already informed my news department of one of these robots operating in our area and offered to loan the news people one of my many receivers any time we get info on police operations in that area. After all I am also a news person. I bet RECON never anticipated giving feeds to news operations. Since the receivers are in the HAM band the police can not restrict the sale and use of such hardware. I am also penning a article for some of the broadcast mags on how to ease drop on the robot feeds. Since most news organizations have live news trucks and even satellite trucks it would not be out of the question for a robot to be deployed, picked up by a local news live truck ,feed to the station ,and up linked to the nation and the 24/7 news guys such as FOX & CNN. This is NOT fiction it can and will happen.

Since we hams do not want the interference from the RECON robots there is legal recourse. As per the waver the robots operate on a non-interfering secondary basis. If you hams get interfered with lodge a formal complaint with the FCC. Include the suspected agency who you think or know is the culprit. Under the terms of the waver the operators of these robots are required by law to log all usage so note the time and date you get interfered with. If the operator of the robot fails to log they can lose all their FCC licenses and be fined by the commission. Upon being informed of interference to any licensed service the operators are required to cease operation. The waver is going to be re-visited in two years and if the systems are causing to many problems the waver will not be extended. The local FCC field offices can not afford to spend all their time shutting down interfering robots. So once again all hams need to monitor these frequencies in your area and if you see anything but a lagit ham TV operator , log it, record it if possible and file complaints with the FCC. While I am all for law enforcement and think these robots can be a great tool ,as they are presently configured they are nothing more than a danger to the user and a nuisance to hams nation wide. The irony is that the vary areas that would best be served by one or more of these robots (big cities) are also the places of high ham radio/TV activity. As I stated earlier a stupid move by both RECON and the FCC in DC. More to come.....

I just stumbled on I-Robot a company that makes competing robots on more secure radio links. I would recommend their robots over recon if you care about your people.


Stay tuned!

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