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Cosmic Tech

FCC boosts WiBotic’s wireless charging system

The Federal Communications Commission has given the go-ahead for Seattle-based WiBotic’s wireless charging system to provide up to 300 watts of over-the-air power to robots, drones and other battery-powered devices.

WiBotic says that’s a first for the industry.

“FCC approval is not only an accomplishment for our team, but also for our customers and the industry,” WiBotic CEO Ben Waters said today in a news release.

“Previously, only low-power cellphone and small electronics chargers or very high-power electric vehicle chargers were approved for widespread use,” Waters said. “WiBotic is now providing a solution that lets the entire automation industry take advantage of the wireless power revolution.”

The FCC’s authorization, issued last month, should boost confidence among WiBotic’s customers that the company’s system meets regulatory requirements. “This will let them deploy larger fleets faster than would otherwise be possible,” the company’s vice president for business development, told Unite.ai’s Antoine Tardif in an interview.

WiBotic’s system lets drones charge themselves up automatically when they touch down on a charging pad. Robots can pull up to a charging station and pull in power via antennas. WiBotic is also working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute on a wireless power system for underwater sensors.

The company’s power management software can work with the hardware to optimize battery use for entire fleets of electric-powered machines, without a human ever having to handle a plug. In a June interview, Waters said the hands-off approach is a particularly strong selling point as companies that rely on automation struggle to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

WiBotic, which was spun out from the University of Washington in 2015, reported raising $5.7 million in a Series A funding round in June, bringing total investment to nearly $9 million. Investors in that round included Junson Capital, SV Tech Ventures, Rolling Bay Ventures, Aves Capital, The W Fund and WRF.

The company is working with an array of customers that include Waypoint RoboticsClearpath Robotics and Aero Corp.

This report was published on Cosmic Log. Accept no substitutes.

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GeekWire

Amazon commits $10B to satellites after FCC’s OK

The Federal Communications Commission has authorized Amazon’s plans for a Project Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites that would provide broadband internet access across a wide swath of the globe — but on the condition that it doesn’t unduly interfere with previously authorized satellite ventures.

In response, Amazon said it would invest more than $10 billion in the project. “We’re off to the races,” Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, said in a statement.

The FCC’s non-interference requirements and other conditions are laid out in a 24-page order that was adopted on July 29 and released today. The ruling addresses objections registered by Amazon’s rivals — including SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat.

Project Kuiper’s satellites are to be launched in five phases, and service would begin once Amazon launched the first 578 satellites. Under the terms of the FCC’s order, Amazon will have to launch half of its satellites by mid-2026, and the rest of them by mid-2029.

Amazon had sought to vie on an equal footing with constellation operators whose plans had been previously authorized by the FCC, but the commission said that in fairness, Project Kuiper would have to give deference to those plans. The FCC said that it expected Amazon’s mega-constellation rivals to act in good faith to resolve radio interference concerns.

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GeekWire

FCC chief tweets support for Amazon satellite plan

The Federal Communications Commission’s chairman, Ajit Pai, says he’s proposing approval of Amazon’s plan to put more than 3,200 satellites into low Earth orbit for a broadband internet constellation known as Project Kuiper … with conditions.

In a tweet, Pai said he shared his proposal today with colleagues on the commission.

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GeekWire

OneWeb applies to put 48,000 satellites in orbit

Image: Satellite web
An artist’s conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. (Credit: OneWeb)

Even though the OneWeb satellite venture is going through bankruptcy and a potential sale, it filed an application overnight with the Federal Communications Commission to expand its planned broadband internet constellation to as many as 48,000 satellites.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

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GeekWire

SpaceX seeks regulatory changes for Starlink

Starlink launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 80 Starlink satellites into orbit on April 22. (SpaceX Photo)

In a new regulatory filing, SpaceX says it plans to start offering commercial broadband internet service using its Starlink satellite constellation in the northern U.S. and southern Canada by the end of this year.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

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GeekWire

Amazon counters opposition to Kuiper satellites

Mega-constellation
Multiple mega-constellations of satellites could take root in low Earth orbit over the next few years. (European Space Agency Illustration)

Amazon fired its latest volley today in a back-and-forth debate over whether the company can proceed in an expedited fashion with its 3,236-satellite Project Kuiper mega-constellation for broadband internet access.

Today’s 24-page letter to the Federal Communications Commission addresses objections raised by SpaceX, OneWeb and other mega-constellation ventures to Amazon’s request for an “expeditious grant” of its application to launch and operate the Kuiper satellites.

“Affording equitable access to spectrum and orbital resources will increase investment, innovation, and consumer choice.” Mariah Dodson Shuman, corporate counsel for Kuiper Systems, Amazon’s satellite subsidiary, wrote in the letter.

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GeekWire

SpaceX seeks 30,000 spots for Starlink satellites

Starlink satellites
A stack of 60 Starlink satellites is in position for orbital deployment during a SpaceX Falcon 9 mission in May. (SpaceX Photo)

SpaceX has filed paperwork with the International Telecommunication Union to add up to 30,000 Starlink broadband data satellites to the 12,000 it’s already been cleared to put in orbit.

The filings reflect SpaceX’s bullishness on the prospects for expanding high-speed internet access to the billions of people around the world who are currently underserved — and its determination to stay ahead of competitors who have their own plans to launch thousands more broadband satellites.

SpaceX’s requests came to light in the form of 20 coordination requests passed along to the ITU on Oct. 7 by the Federal Communications Commission, with 1,525 orbital planes specified in each request. Such requests generally come in the early stages of the regulatory process, with follow-up action taken by the ITU and the FCC.

The filings set off a seven-year countdown for getting clearances and launching the specified satellites, and then operating them for at least 90 days. SpaceX wouldn’t be required to launch all 30,000 satellites, but laying out its plan now could give it a regulatory advantage if other satellite operators were to go after the same orbital slots and frequencies.

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SpaceX wants to rearrange Starlink satellites

Starlink satellite
An artist’s conception shows the deployment of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. (SpaceX Illustration)

SpaceX is seeking approval from the Federal Communications Commission for changes in the spacing of its Starlink broadband satellites, in order to extend internet services to a wider swath of the United States on a faster timetable.

“This adjustment will accelerate coverage to southern states and U.S. territories, potentially expediting coverage to the southern continental United States by the end of the next hurricane season and reaching other U.S. territories by the following hurricane season,” SpaceX said in an application filed on Aug. 30 and accepted last week.

If SpaceX follows that schedule, Starlink coverage could be available throughout the 48 contiguous U.S. states by November 2020, when next year’s hurricane season ends.

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GeekWire

Amazon wants to test mobile broadband devices

Motorola CBRS application
Motorola is already experimenting with CBRS technology, which could be applied to broadband workplace communications. Now Amazon wants to test CBRS systems as well. (Motorola Photo)

Amazon is seeking the Federal Communications Commission’s approval for a six-month test of mobile radio devices and networking software – but not at its Seattle home base.

The experiment with Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS, would take place in Sunnyvale, Calif. That’s the Silicon Valley city where Amazon’s Lab126 product development subsidiary is headquartered. Lab126 played a key role in creating devices such as Amazon’s Kindle ebook readers and Kindle Fire tablets (as well as the not-so-successful Kindle Fire phones).

CBRS uses a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum that was originally set aside for U.S. government communications. Four years ago, the FCC began a process to open up the spectrum – ranging from 3550 to 3700 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band – for sharing with commercial users for wireless broadband applications.

The CBRS band is expected to be easier to use than other parts of the spectrum. It could enable local data transmission at speeds that are better than Wi-Fi, and should play well with 5G.

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Amazon seeks FCC’s OK for Kuiper satellites

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at the re:MARS conference in Las Vegas. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

By Alan Boyle and Taylor Soper

Amazon is asking the Federal Communications Commission for approval of its Project Kuiper satellite broadband venture, and referring to potential synergies with Amazon Web Services as a strong selling point.

GeekWire first reported news of Project Kuiper in April, when Amazon revealed plans to put more than 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit for global broadband coverage.

That revelation was contained in documents that were filed with the International Telecommunication Union. On July 4, Amazon’s wholly owned Kuiper Systems subsidiary followed up with a fresh set of FCC filings.

The filings confirm that the project would consist of 3,236 satellites in 98 orbital planes, at altitudes ranging between 366 and 391 miles (590 and 630 kilometers).

“Amazon’s mission is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and the Kuiper System is one of our ambitious projects to fulfill this mission,” the application reads. “The Kuiper System will deliver satellite broadband communications services to tens of millions of unserved and underserved consumers and businesses in the United States and around the globe.”

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