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Advanced Wireless Communications for Drone Swarms

Dr. Laneman
Dr. Laneman
Principal Investigator: 

Dr. Laneman, Department of Electrical Engineering. 

Project Summary:

The expanding vision for applications of drone swarms has generated significant interest but has also raise numerous technical challenges related to high-speed, low-latency, and reliable communications over drone-to-ground and drone-to-drone wireless links. Widely-deployed commercial radio technologies, e.g., cellular UMTS / LTE as well as WiFi, would seem to offer viable connectivity solutions, but they require characterization of performance tradeoffs, system-level optimizations, and standards enhancements to enable safe drone operations.

To address problems in this space, our team has been developing a low-profile computation and communications platform for drones and collaborating with drone control and software engineering researchers to conduct preliminary flight tests and data collections. The platform consists of a Raspberry Pi embedded computer with a built-in WiFi device as well as a USB UMTS / LTE device that can easily be mounted on a drone. Positioning is obtained for now via a GPS board, or "hat," for the Raspberry Pi, but it can instead be obtained from the drone itself. Software is being developed to allow the onboard computer to act as communications manager for the wireless interfaces, allowing the drone to monitor the performance of each wireless interface and controlling the types and frequencies of messages broadcast on each. To prototype these services, we are implementing a distributed detect-and-avoid protocol called Position Intent Broadcast System (PIBS) in collaboration with industry partner InterDigital. 

Student's Role:

The REU student will work with graduate students, a software engineer, and the faculty advisor to design experiments and process collected data to characterize wireless network performance and improve wireless protocols for drone control and sensor data streaming. Basic proficiency in hardware and software from electrical engineering and computer science can be applied to these projects, and experience flying drones and/or operating amateur radios are a big plus.