Tethered drones have wireless data covered

Wireless connectivity in temporary high-usage hotspots, such as where large crowds gather, could be enhanced using tethered drones connected to a ground station.

© 2021 KAUST; Xavier Pita

Keeping up with wireless demand is a never-ending endeavor for data providers, who often contend with temporary high-usage hotspots that might be underserviced by the fixed-base station network. Tethered drones could provide a flexible and low-cost solution for temporarily increasing wireless capacity when and where it’s needed.

“Transient hotspots of heavy data traffic can occur at events such as sporting matches, concerts, conferences and exhibitions,” says Osama Bushnaq, a former Ph.D. student at KAUST. “However, the high cost of deploying fixed terrestrial base stations to serve such occasional or periodic events may not be warranted. In such circumstances, drones could hover over the hotspot to provide ground users with better connectivity. The question for us was whether tethered or untethered drones would be better.”

Drones are potentially very good wireless base stations because they can be placed close above the usage hotspot and offer clear line-of-sight and optimal connectivity. On their own, however, they have limited battery duration and would rely on a good wireless link to a fixed ground station to provide the bandwidth needed to service the hotspot.

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