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Exploring 5G Connectivity for UAS Command and Control

5G Non-Stand-Alone (NSA) Experiment at Virginia Tech Drone Cage

As part of Open Generation’s efforts to accelerate life-changing 5G applications, MITRE Engenuity and Virginia Tech are collaboratively working on a series of testbed experiments designed to enable and advance the performance of 5G technology utilization for Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) (i.e., drones). This document describes the experiments executed for Phase 1B of the testbed experiment series, which was designed to enable drone use cases that require the ability to safely operate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). At the conclusion of this proof-of-concept phase, the team accomplished the following:

  • Integrated drone with 5G user equipment (UE)
  • Implemented end-to-end communications between ground control station (GCS) and drone connected to a 5G NSA base station, including:
    • Drone C2 telemetry (sensor data from drone to GCS)
    • Drone C2 commands (commands from GCS to drone)
    • Real-time, in-flight video streamed from drone to ground server
  • Performed flight tests with the 5G drone operating in the following modes:
    • Loiter (held position and altitude based on GPS & barometric altimeter)
    • Auto (flight along a predefined path)
    • Guided (sent commands to proceed to each waypoint in real time, over cellular connection)