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When conducting UAS operations would a PIC or Spotter be considered a ground station or an air station? The communications would concern a sUAS in the air, but the radio is physically on the ground.

I'm asking in the context of licensing within the United States. As far as I can tell from reading the FCC's website, Air stations do not require a station license to operate, while Ground stations do.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! You might get a better answer if you tell us why you need to know, e.g. is it in the context of needing a radio station license? And if you're asking about regulations or other rules, please always tell us which country you're asking about. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jun 26 '18 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife This is in the context of needing a license within the United States. $\endgroup$ – Reid Crowe Jun 26 '18 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ This question seems poorly thought out, and practically moot. If you were actually doing this, you'd be navigating the more complex regulatory landscape of flying it, and of licensing your control channels. If you are just imagining it, consider that a ground-based transmitter for proxy communication from the UAS to other aircraft, ATC, airports, etc isn't going to work well - you'd need to transmit from the UAS to have decent radio propagation to these. $\endgroup$ – Chris Stratton Jun 26 '18 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ Although I can't pinpoint a FAR or FCC reg about it, an suas pilot should not be transmitting on air band frequencies except in emergencies. Receiving never requires a license in the us $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jun 26 '18 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ @ReidCrowe I think people are overestimating the limits of a handheld. Instructors talk to students on solo flights often. ATC antennas are on masts, so if you're anywhere near a tower I'm sure they could hear your handheld just fine. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jun 27 '18 at 17:25
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According to the FCC website on aviation radios

On October 25, 1996, the FCC released a Report and Order in WT Docket No. 96-82 eliminating the individual licensing requirement for all aircraft, including scheduled air carriers, air taxis and general aviation aircraft operating domestically. This means that you do not need a license to operate a two-way VHF radio, radar, or emergency locator transmitter (ELT) aboard aircraft operating domestically. All other aircraft radio stations must be licensed by the FCC either individually or by fleet. [emphasis mine]

There is no specific mention of UAS, so I would say that you could not use it from the ground. It also specifies the following with regards to handheld radios:

You may only use your hand-held aircraft VHF radio in your aircraft under the terms of your aircraft license. You are required to have a separate Ground Station license to operate your radio on the ground. [emphasis mine]

It's fairly common practice for flight instructors to talk to students on solo flights via handheld, but it was decided in a discussion (can't find the question) that one technically is supposed to be in a plane to do so.

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Air -> Air, or Ground -> Air describes the ultimate path of the message. It doesn't describe what's being discussed. So:

The communications would concern a sUAS in the air, but the radio is physically on the ground.

If the radio endpoints are both on the ground, then that's ground -> ground transmission. Put it another way - if a controller talks to a fireman over the radio, about an aircraft in the air, it doesn't magically become a Ground -> Air transmissions.

The definition matters primarily for technical and practical reasons (E.g.., Air -> Air radio will have a better range than Ground -> Ground because of nothing being in the way). If you're on the ground, you're a ground station - it's as simple as that.

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    $\begingroup$ Definition also matters for licensing purposes. As I understand from the FCC's website, Air stations do not require an FCC license while Ground stations do. Edit due to premature posting: The context of this is if a remote PIC needs to communicate with Aircraft about the location of the sUAS, from a licensing standpoint is the remote PIC an air station or ground station. $\endgroup$ – Reid Crowe Jun 26 '18 at 14:34

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