Drone Testbed Launched to Further 4G and 5G Enabled Drone Applications

Drone mapping

The Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless (AERPAW) wireless testbed for network communications and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) – drone — research is now available, the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) Project Office announced.

The PAWR program is funded by the National Science Foundation and an industry consortium of 35 wireless companies. The program is co-led by non-profit USIgnite and Northeastern University.

The Drone Testbed

The goal of the testbed is to enable research into advanced wireless technologies supporting “dynamic, mobile and airborne networks” and to accelerate the integration of UAS into the national airspace.

In the first phase operations, the AERPAW testbed will include a pair of fixed network nodes at the North Carolina State University Centennial Campus, as well as a tower with a fixed node deployed at the university’s Lake Wheeler Field Laboratory.

These two fixed nodes combine with two aerial-mounted nodes on custom multi-copter drones, as well as to a portable node attached to a ground-based rover. All nodes employ software defined radios which can be configured to create different types of network environments using various open source software stacks.

AERPAW is supporting UAS experiments to enable researchers to collect signal measurement data with a single drone flying a path pre-programmed by the researcher. The data collection will factor in variables of speed, direction and location in space. The data collected is expected to provide valuable insights into radio performance and opportunities for network optimization.

Planned future experiments will include dynamic on-the-fly vehicle control ability and new network nodes being built out across the testbed footprint, as well as the integration of commercial radio hardware and software alongside open source network components.

“The AERPAW platform uniquely combines programmable wireless networking with custom drones to enable research into both airspace operations and wireless connectivity through 4G, 5G, and beyond,” said Ismail Guvenc, AERPAW Principal Investigator and NC State engineering professor, in a prepared statement about the drone testbed. “Given significant public and private sector interest, we’re excited to see where the first experiments lead, and what early insights may emerge from the research community.”


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