Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Using Public Network Infrastructures for UAV Remote Sensing in Civilian Security Operations

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Using Public Network Infrastructures for UAV Remote Sensing in Civilian Security Operations

Article excerpt


As a result of advances in communication, computation, sensor and energy storage technologies, as well as carbon fiber-reinforced plastic materials, micro unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are available at affordable prices. On this basis many new application areas, such as the in-depth reconnaissance and surveillance of major incidents, will be possible. Uncontrolled emissions of liquid or gaseous contaminants in cases of volcanic eruptions, large fires, industrial incidents, or terrorist attacks can be analyzed by utilizing UAV (Figure 1). Hence, the use of cognitive Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for distributing mobile sensors in incident areas is in general a significant value added for remote sensing, reconnaissance, surveillance, and communication purposes.1

Figure 1: Deployment Scenario: Chemical Plume Detection with an Autonomous Micro UAV Mesh Network.

In the near future police departments, fire brigades and other homeland security organizations will have access to medium- and small-size UAV and will integrate them in their work flow. The use of non-military frequencies and civil communication technologies gains in importance for purposes of safety and security missions, since the frequency pool is limited and nearly exhausted. In particular, regionally organized public authorities and small rescue organizations like fire brigades often have insufficient access to frequencies and expensive communication equipment. Thus, using civil mobile communication systems is often the only effective workaround for homeland security organizations.

This is also one of the major issues for wireless communication in the area of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Besides flight regulation, wireless communication is an important aspect of UAS as telemetry information (navigation, control, guidance) and sensor data usually have to be transmitted to a mission control center (MCC) in nearly real-time. Today, there is no viable alternative for this type of transmission besides using civil mobile communication networks. Unfortunately, there is no foreseeable solution in terms of frequency assignment for UAS. For efficient sensor coverage of large industrial and incident areas, fast and flexible strategies for collecting sensor data through an autonomous, reliably connected UAV need to be developed. In this article we focus on the civilian concepts of operations (CONOPS) for UAV, in particular for small-scale UAV. Viable concepts on the system level for leveraging public wireless communication networks for UAV-based cognitive remote sensing are presented with respect to both existing constraints and user requirements.

The article is structured as follows: we first present the current state of the art and related research activities in the area of UAS communication. Civilian concepts of operations (CONOPS) for purposes of homeland security are discussed in the next section. Subsequent sections address the requirements, concepts and solutions for Air-to-Air (A2A), Air-to-Ground (A2G), and UAS-backend communication. On this basis we then show a methodology for agent-based UAV-mobility for areas with insufficient communication. The article ends suggestions for future research.

Related Work and Projects

Several research investigations have been done in the area of UAS. However, UAS communication aspects mostly address proprietary communication systems and usually do not consider public wireless infrastructures since these systems have been mostly deployed by military organizations in the past. Hence, we identify a demand for more in-depth contributions for UAS communication by means of public wireless networks.

Tiwari and others have studied the placement planning problem of an airborne network.2 They offer a toolbox to optimize the ground coverage while maintaining a certain degree of reliability and connectivity. By introducing practical scenarios for deployment, the interaction between communication design and mobility planning is shown. …

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