IILM College of Engineering and Technology

Drone Base Stations: The future of 5G and beyond Cellular Systems!!

The Low Altitude Platforms (LAPs), aka Drones, are becoming the latest trend for their usability in multiple applications including search and rescue operations, surveillance, disaster recovery, transportation, agriculture, etc. But now we can see their roles emerging into commercial sector and a future prospective in the field of advanced communications. The Facebook Drone Project[1] and Google Loon Project[2] (images below)are some of the examples that are performing research to use High Altitude Platforms (HAPs) in the air to provide internet connectivity to the masses on the ground. Where we see such high altitude flying devices stationed up in the air to cover larger areas (upto several kms), low altitude platforms are being suggested to cover the hotspot/localised areas on the ground.
IILM-CET, Greater Noida
Facebook DroneAQUILA [1]

Google Loon Project [2]
As the future 5G and beyond generations are claiming to provide high data rate services to the massive user base, the level of infrastructure must be re-considered by the Telecom Operators. The fixed base stations have a limitation on their multiple installations at small congested areas. Traffic hotspots are characterized by significant traffic loads that can make nearby base stations congested. Certain areas can become hotspots at some times and be user-free at other times. Adding base stations at such areas shall prove to be idle at times when there are less or no users in those particular areas. For example, at carnivals and at festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi are loaded with crowds on the roads, and might congest the nearby base stations due to attempts of mass access to the internet connectivity.

Low Altitude Platforms (LAPs) forming Aerial Base Stations (ABS) are nowadays suggested to improve the radio coverage to the subscribers on the ground. Several researches are going on to make a complete Drone Cellular Base Stations and team of such drones can be deployed at areas where there is heavy congestion or during catastrophe situations where the fixed base stations are destroyed.

Some of the positive aspects of utilizing Drone Base Stations are as follows:

  • Reachability: Easy to reach at target/congested areas.
  • Rapid Deployment: The team of drone base stations can be deployed as and when needed.
  • 3D Coverage: The drone mobility can cover all of the area around them with a probability of being at Line of Sight (LoS) with the ground receivers at most of the times.
  • High Payload Capacity: Advancements in new structures and designs suggest high payload carrying capacity.
  • ImprovedPower Consumption: Advancements in batteries and use of alternate sources of energy (e.g. solar chips)
  • Intelligent and Adaptive: Variable altitudes, speeds, and orientation according to the applications can be customized.

 It is believed that Intelligent Drone Base Stations are a good alternative in the future 5G and beyond (5GB) in order to enable the rapid and efficient deployment in addition to the traditional ground infrastructure.
No wonder if you see drones flying right above you in the future!!!!
For detailed reading refer to [3] References

  • “Flying Aquila: Early lessons from the first full-scale test flight and the path ahead,” Facebook Code
  • “Project Loon,” Wikipedia”
  • Purnima Lala Mehta, “A Self-Itinerant Intelligent Aerial Radio Architecture (SIIARA),” PhD Thesis, Aarhus University, Herning, Denmark, 2018.

Dr Purnima Lala Mehta
Assistant Professor
ECE Department
IILM-CET, Greater Noida


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