Route or Carry: Motion-driven Packet Forwarding in Micro Aerial Vehicle Networks
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Micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) provide data such as images and videos from an aerial perspective, with data typically transferred to the ground. To establish connectivity in larger areas, a fleet of MAVs may set up an ad-hoc wireless network. Packet forwarding in aerial networks is challenged by unstable link quality and intermittent connectivity caused by MAV movement. We show that signal obstruction by the MAV frame can be alleviated by adapting the MAV platform, even for low-priced MAVs, and the aerial link can be properly characterized by its geographical distance. Based on this link characterization and making use of GPS and inertial sensors on-board of MAVs, we design and implement a motion-driven packet forwarding algorithm. The algorithm unites location-aware end-to-end routing and delay-tolerant forwarding, extended by two predictive heuristics. Given the current location, speed, and orientation of the MAVs, future locations are estimated and used to refine packet forwarding decisions. We study the forwarding algorithm in a field measurement campaign with quadcopters connected over Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11n, complemented by simulation. Our analysis confirms that the proposed algorithm masters intermittent connectivity well, but also discloses inefficiencies of location-aware forwarding. By anticipating motion, such inefficiencies can be counteracted and the forwarding performance can be improved.