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Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar (SENSR)

Radio Spectrum

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The Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar (SENSR) is a cross-agency program formed by FAA and three other partner agencies to assess the feasibility of vacating and auctioning a band of Government-owned radio frequency valued in the billions of dollars. Proceeds from the auction will be used to finance the deployment of a new system to meet the needs of all four agencies, providing surveillance for air traffic, weather, law enforcement, and national defense. The three partner agencies include Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In August 2018, NOAA removed a key weather requirement and largely withdrew from the program, remaining in an advisory role.

SENSR is currently assessing the technical solutions, which will culminate in an investment decision in 2021 in support of the 2024 auction.


Demand for space on the radio spectrum is increasing due to technological innovations such as 4G mobile services and the rapid expansion of wireless internet services. A Presidential mandate calling on federal agencies to free portions of the spectrum led to the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015 (PDF). This bi-partisan budget control act states the following:

  • The program must submit a plan to free 30 MHz spectrum below 3.0 GHz for auction by 2024
  • Auction proceeds to cover 110% of relocation or spectrum sharing cost
  • $500M appropriated for research, development, and planning

The FAA, Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are examining the feasibility of making a minimum of 30 MHz of the spectrum available within 1300-1350 MHz by potentially consolidating long-range, short-range, and weather radar requirements. This would be made available through an auction of that spectrum in 2024.

Incumbent Radar Systems

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OMB and Technical Panel Signed and approved Spectrum Pipeline Plan sent to Congress in January 2017. The program is funded through the Spectrum Reallocation Fund via the SENSR Pipeline Plan which was approved by a technical panel of consisting of members from the Federal Communications Commission, the Office of Management and Budget and National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Next Steps

With OMB approval and funding, the SENSR team is now assessing the feasibility of making a minimum of 30 MHz of the 1300 to 1350 MHz band available for reallocation for shared federal and non-federal use. A feasibility study will identify potential surveillance solutions and evaluate the capability to auction the spectrum by 2024.

The bandwidth would be vacated for auction by consolidating functions of certain existing surveillance radar, which would be replaced by a surveillance solution that would address the requirements of all three agencies. The SENSR team would approve the surveillance solution.

The program office is also updating the Pipeline Plan with the Technical Panel (FCC, OMB, NTIA) and Congress and obtaining funding from OMB.

Key Dates:

Key Dates
Key Events Dates
Initial Investment Decision March 2020 (completed)
Draft Screening Information
Request (SIR) Release
Target June 2020
Final SIR Target February 2021
Final Investment Decision March 2022
Contract Award June 2022
Spectrum Auction July 2024

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