Extending cell tower coverage through drones

Ashutosh Dhekne, Mahanth Gowda, Romit Roy Choudhury

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper explores a future in which drones serve as extensions to cellular networks. Equipped with a WiFi interface and a (LTE/5G) backhaul link, we envision a drone to fly in and create a WiFi network in a desired region. Analogous to fire engines, these drones can offer on-demand network service, alleviating unpredictable problems such as sudden traffic hotspots, poor coverage, and natural disasters. While realizing such a vision would need various pieces to come together, we focus on the problem of "drone placement". We ask: when several scattered users demand cellular connectivity in a particular area, where should the drone hover so that the aggregate demands are optimally satisfied? This is essentially a search problem, i.e., the drone needs to determine a 3D location from which its SNR to all the clients is maximized. Given the unknown environmental conditions (such as multipath, wireless shadows, foliage, and absorption), it is not trivial to predict the best hovering location. We explore the possibility of using RF ray tracing as a hint to narrow down the scope of search. Our key idea is to use 3D models from Google Earth to roughly model the terrain of the region, and then simulate how signals would scatter from the drone to various clients. While such simulations offer coarse-grained results, we find that they can still be valuable in broadly guiding the drone in the right direction. Once the drone has narrowed down the 3D search space, it can then physically move to quickly select the best hovering location. Measurement results from a WiFi mounted drone, communicating with 7 clients scattered in the UIUC campus, are encouraging. Our early prototype, DroneNet, reports 44% throughput gain with only 10% measurement overhead compared to a full scan of the entire region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHotMobile 2017 - Proceedings of the 18th International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pages7-12
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781450349079
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 21 2017
Event18th International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications, HotMobile 2017 - Sonoma, United States
Duration: Feb 21 2017Feb 22 2017

Publication series

NameHotMobile 2017 - Proceedings of the 18th International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications

Conference

Conference18th International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications, HotMobile 2017
CountryUnited States
CitySonoma
Period2/21/172/22/17

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications

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