Drones provide 5G network test and performance verification

September 16, 2019 //By Nick Flaherty
Rohde & Schwarz has supplied mobile 5G network test tools for drone-based network coverage, performance and operation tests managed by Ericsson
Rohde & Schwarz has supplied mobile 5G network test tools for drone-based network coverage, performance and operation tests managed by Ericsson

A project team based in Jorvas, Finland has developed a system for 5G network test coverage using the latest New Radio (NR) specification.

The system uses mobile network testing scanners and smartphones from Rohde & Schwarz mounted on a drone that can be programmed to execute automatic tests with considerable flexibility, for example for precise route selection and drone speed control. This solution is especially valuable for industrial use cases. It also has the advantages over traditional walk and drive tests by providing unprecedented repeatability and positional accuracy with the ability to verify beamforming and map coverage in 3D.

Using a drone for 5G network test and monitoring provides 3D accessibility, positional accuracy and repeatability of the testing. It also opens up new possibilities to ensure end user Quality of Service (QoS) for 5G use cases such as industry 4.0, automotive and public safety.

The R&S TSMA6 5G network test scanner is mounted on a drone and is able to simultaneously verify important LTE and 5G NR coverage metrics such as reference signal received power (RSRP) and signal-to-interference-plus-noise ratio (SINR) in accordance with 3GPP standards. When combined with the R&S QualiPoc Android smartphone-based optimizer, IP trace, application QoS metrics such as serving cell parameters are possible. The solution currently uses LTE user equipment (UE) but will soon be further developed to include 5G UEs such as the Samsung S10 5G.

The drone can be programmed to follow an exact three-dimensional route. The over 20 successful measurement flights conducted so far have shown the solution procedure and results to be extremely repeatable. The drone flights were of various duration, altitudes and routes, depending on the test case. Control, authentication and air traffic control are considerable challenges to the development of robust drone-based solutions. In this new system they are conducted over cellular networks, eliminating the requirement for line-of-sight connection between the drone and its pilot.

The project is a collaboration between Ericsson, Rohde


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