This chapter discusses the design, implementation and deployment of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) network for the purpose of transmitting video surveillance data amongst nodes. It presents a heterogeneous network consisting of multiple stationary and mobile ground-based nodes, as well as multiple autonomous aerial vehicles. A design process to enable emergent system safety in an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Platform System through the correct integration of critical UAV subsystems in a scalable fashion to enable collaboration across multiple UAVs is outlined. The UAV network system field demonstration comprised of 16 fixed ground nodes, 1 mobile ground node, and 2 airborne nodes connected by two routing gateways to a legacy wired network is described. Networking and communications effects, including the impact of node mobility, network partitioning and merging, as well as gateway failovers are examined through the course of the demonstration. Discussion of the networking protocols deployed, as well as analysis of performance issues are then placed in context of the overall field demonstration.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Platform Systems
The Aerospace Laboratory for Embedded Autonomous Systems (ALEAS) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platform system consists of several individual Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Each system had a common architecture along with attendant ground stations which can be used to relay commands, as well as operational procedures, to the UAVs if needed. Amodular software infrastructure was then used to enable collaborative UAV flight . The main purpose of the UAS platform was to develop assurance methods to enable autonomous flight of UAVs in a shared airspace environment, such as the National Airspace System (NAS). Thus, a primary concern was making sure that the system exhibits high safety and reliability standards. The field demonstration , further detailed in Section 5.2.1, required that a video be streamed across a network comprised of both ground and aerial nodes. As fielded in the outlined experiment, the UAS system consisted of two UAVs, continuously operating at an altitude of approximately 100–300ft. above ground level for roughly 50 minutes each.
Aviation authorities around the world have been making progress towards integrating UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) into their national airspaces. In parallel, private industry has been developing innovative UAV-based applications, such as drone-based package delivery, medicine delivery, pipeline monitoring systems, and disaster-area aerial surveys. However, before UAVs can become integrated into the civilian airspace and such real-world applications become reality, there are several technical, societal, and regulatory challenges that need to be addressed by the research community. The most important among them is the need for enhanced situational awareness of UAVs in the airspace.
Three different, yet complementary, paradigms emerged to address enhanced situational awareness of UAVs: satellite communications, cellular-communications, and aerial communications and networks. This book focuses on the third strategy, i.e., enhanced situational awareness through self-organized aerial networking of UAVs. It provides the necessary knowledge for students, researchers, and professionals to gain an understanding of the research challenges in UAV networks and communications. Collaborating with several eminent research scholars and subject matter experts, the editors developed nine chapters that take the reader from the foundations to active research topics in this exciting domain.
The first chapter, “Introduction to UAV Systems,” introduces the reader to UAV types and missions. It provides the background and context for UAVs and UAV networks with a focus on their civilian applications. It also discusses the state-of-the-art in engineering and technology aspects of UAV networks and the benefits of deploying such networks.
The second chapter, “Air-to-Ground and Air-to-Air Data Link Communication,” provides the background on wireless communication used in manned aviation. It discusses the technologies proposed for L-band Digital Aeronautical Communication. It provides the fundamental insights relevant for aerial communication on unmanned and small UAVs, learned from experience with the advanced terrestrial mobile broadband communication extrapolated to the aerial case.
The third chapter, “AerialWi-Fi Networks,” provides the characteristics of aerial links in three-dimensional space (3D). Aerial networks differ from other wireless networks, such as mobile ad hoc networks or vehicular ad hoc networks. It discusses the communication requirements for aerial network applications in terms of throughput, delay, data exchange frequency, etc. It defines different levels of autonomy in aerial networks from the perspective of communication needs.
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