Can flying drones improve cellular network coverage? RUDN thinks so…

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Flying drones are of interest as flying access points for cellular network users and as mobile signal amplifiers, says RUDN University, which has been using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in their stimulated work of a cellular network.

Most of the available communication systems give a flat coverage and do not take into account the difference in altitude, which results in the appearance of the so-called "blind" zones. Flying drones will help in solving this issue, says RUDN researchers.

"Drones have become a promising tool for a variety of applications - from wireless information transfer to delivery of goods,” says Professor Konstantin Samuylov of RUDN University.

“We simulate a communication system using drones, taking into account many features of the real life situation, including random distances between simulation objects (from drones to users, for instance). We model the system in three dimensions, which significantly improves the accuracy of modelling in comparison with the known models. The approach itself - the use of UAVs - will increase the coverage of the cellular network by about 40 percent.”

Cellular communication, which is used by mobile phones, is based on the transmission of information via radio waves. To create a seamless network, the coverage area, such as a city, is divided into overlapping units and a separate base station operates in each of them. These stations are capable of both transmitting and receiving radio waves from mobile phones.

The main drawback is that the emissions from the base stations are 2D. That is why quality of communication varies at different heights. RUDN presented a model in which flying unmanned drones would serve as additional receivers-transmitters of radio waves and cover areas beyond the reach of conventional base stations. According to the researchers, this will improve the quality and reliability of the service.

Employing the calculations of stochastic geometry (a discipline at the junction of geometry and probability theory), scientists have built a 3D model of a cellular network that works with UMVs. They differ from stationary base stations because they use a directional millimetre-wave emissions with wider frequencies and larger energy (by two orders of magnitude). Such waves are safe for humans and provide an opportunity to significantly increase the data transfer speed.

The main feature of the 3D model is that it takes into account the fact that the receiver-transmitters of the drone and the user are at different height. This increases the accuracy of the calculations when estimating possible interference. Calculations showed that the interaction between the drones and the user will be most effective if the signal of the UAV is at an almost right angle. In this case, it meets much fewer obstacles in the form of buildings and people on its way, concludes the researchers.