A document describes a paradigm in which low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with wireless communication capability are used to assist networking among a set of ground stations. This new paradigm is attractive because UAVs can be dynamically deployed in a wide variety of geographical territories. Furthermore, UAVs often have high-quality line-of-sight communication links with other UAVs, and ground stations as aerial links usually suffer relatively little shadowing compared with their terrestrial counterparts.

The paradigm uses a UAV networking testbed that includes a set of efficient tools for trace collection and data visualization. Using regression and non-parametric statistical analysis, the prediction capabilities of several existing models are compared and quantified that take into account factors including distance, antenna gain pattern, antenna cross polarization, and, in some cases, ground reflection.

The fundamental reasons that prevent the performance of a wireless ad-hoc network from scaling up for high-throughput applications over a wide geographical area of interest are analyzed. The culprit is found to be the multi-radio and multi-hop interference. A number of solutions is provided to combat interference and validate the efficacy of these solutions via field experimentation. The withstanding problem due to multi-hop interference will vanish if an extra dimension of physical mobility of data-ferrying UAVs is introduced into the solution space.

This work was done by H.T. Kung of Harvard University, and Dan Hague and Bruce Suter of the Air Force Research Laboratory.


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Next-Generation Information Systems Architectures

(reference AFRL-0113) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the April, 2009 issue of Defense Tech Briefs Magazine.

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