A tutorial on UAV's for Wireless Networks: Applications, Challenges and Open Problems

Publication Type:

Journal Article


EEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials (Submitted)


The use of flying platforms such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones, is rapidly growing in a wide range of wireless networking applications. In particular, with their inherent attributes such as mobility, flexibility, and adaptive altitude, UAVs admit several key potential application in wireless systems. On the one hand, UAVs can be used as aerial base stations to enhance coverage, capacity, reliability, and energy efficiency of wireless networks. For instance, UAVs can be deployed to complement existing cellular systems by providing additional capacity to hotspot areas as well as to provide network coverage in emergency and public safety situations. On the other hand, UAVs can operate as flying mobile terminals within the cellular networks. Such cellular-connected UAVs can enable a wide range of key applications expanding from real-time video streaming to item delivery. Despite the several benefits and practical applications of using UAVs as aerial wireless devices, one must address many technical challenges. In this paper, a comprehensive tutorial on the potential benefits and applications of UAVs in wireless communications is presented. Moreover, the important challenges and the fundamental tradeoffs in UAV-enabled wireless networks are thoroughly investigated. In particular, the key UAV challenges such as three-dimensional (3D) deployment, performance analysis, air-to-ground channel modeling, and energy efficiency are explored along with representative results. Then, fundamental open problems and potential research directions pertaining to wireless communications and networking with UAVs are introduced. To cope with the open research problems, various analytical frameworks and mathematical tools such as optimization theory, machine learning, stochastic geometry, transport theory, and game theory are described. The use of such tools for addressing unique UAV problems is also presented. In a nutshell, this tutorial provides key guidelines on how to analyze, optimize, and design UAV-based wireless communication systems.