Drone, network communications test bed now open for business at NCSU

RALEIGH – The Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) project office announces the general availability of the AERPAW wireless testbed for network communication and research on unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Located in Raleigh, AERPAW – or Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless – aims to accelerate the integration of UAS into national airspace and enable research into advanced wireless technologies that support dynamic, mobile and airborne networks.

In the first phase of operation, the AERPAW testbed comprises two fixed network nodes on the Centennial campus of North Carolina State University and a tower with a fixed node in the Lake Wheeler Field Laboratory, an agricultural site of the university. These fixed nodes combine with two air-mounted nodes on custom multicopter drones and a portable node attached to a ground-based rover. All nodes have software defined radios that can be configured to create different types of network environments with a variety of open source software stacks.

First, AERPAW is supporting UAS experiments that allow researchers to collect signal measurement data with a single drone flying a path preprogrammed by the researcher. Taking into account the variables of speed, direction and position in space, this data collection will provide valuable insights into radio performance and possibilities for network optimization. Future supported experiments include dynamic on-the-fly vehicle control, building new network nodes across the entire test environment, and integrating commercial wireless hardware and software alongside open source network components.

“The AERPAW platform uniquely combines programmable wireless networks with custom drones to enable exploration of both airspace operations and wireless connectivity across 4G, 5G and beyond,” said Ismail Guvenc, AERPAW principal investigator and engineering professor at NC State. “Given the huge public and private sector interest, we are excited to see where the first experiments will lead and what early insights may emerge from the research community.”

“The PAWR program has initiated the development of four wireless test beds to be used as common national infrastructure facilities,” said Gurdip Singh, director of computing and network systems at the National Science Foundation. “AERPAW is the third platform to achieve general availability and the first with a direct focus on application-level research through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. We are very excited to recognize the advances made by the AERPAW team and to welcome researchers to the North Carolina platform. “

AERPAW is the result of a multi-institutional partnership led by NC State with the Wireless Research Center of North Carolina, Renaissance Computing Institute, Mississippi State University, University of South Carolina, Purdue University, Town of Cary, City of Raleigh, North Carolina Department of Transportation and many other academic, industrial, and community partners.

“This is just the beginning for AERPAW,” said Marc Hoit, vice chancellor, information technology, NC State. “We are excited to bring experimenters to the platform, and we look forward to expanding the capabilities of the testbed to enable even greater academic and industrial innovation in wireless and unmanned aerial systems.”

The PAWR program is funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and an industrial consortium of 35 leading wireless companies. It is administered by the PAWR Project Office, which is jointly run by the US nonprofit Ignite and Northeastern University. In addition to AERPAW, the PAWR program platforms include: POWDER in Salt Lake City, Utah; KOSMOS in New York City; and ARA, a newly named rural broadband testbed in Ames, Iowa. The PAWR program also includes other resources and facilities including Colosseum, the world’s largest radio frequency emulator, and OpenAirX-Labs (OAX), a neutral laboratory environment for developing and testing a benchmark open source 5G software stack.

For more information on the PAWR program, visit www.advancedwireless.org. To view footage of a demo drone experiment on the AERPAW platform, visit the AERPAW Project Updates page.

The Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research Project Office (PPO) manages the $ 100 million public-private partnership and oversees the research platforms. The PPO is jointly managed by US Ignite and Northeastern University and funded by the US National Science Foundation and a PAWR industry consortium. The PPO works closely with the wireless research community, local communities and industry, in part through the industry consortium, in the design, development, deployment and commissioning of the research platforms.


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