Airborne Networks Research

In the future your smart phone might connect to a network of airborne platforms, rather than cell towers, to stream data. I propose using commercial aircraft as the principal components of such an airborne network. Through realistic simulation we seek to design topology control and routing protocols which meet the unique challenges of this dynamic network.

My research centers around designing protocols for a high-bandwidth airborne network, much like Project Loon proposed by Google. I propose instead, however, using commercial aircraft as the principal components of this network, augmenting with balloons or drones only as needed. This network would also be connected to a limited number of ground station gateways, linking it to the Internet, and enabling high-speed connections to be beamed to businesses and homes on the ground and provided to passengers on-board.

I propose using high-bandwidth long-range free-space optics (FSO) directional links to connect the aircraft. My focus is on solving, in simulation, the unique problems which must be overcome before these directional links can form a network among thousands of flying nodes.

One such problem is designing an explicit topology control protocol which will determine where links should point and manage the physical topology as the network evolves. Routing within this constantly changing network is another challenging problem, and a routing protocol needs to be designed and tested to efficiently route packets in this ever-changing network.

It is on these problems that my research focuses. It is my hope that solving these problems will help make commercial airborne networks a reality.