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Performance Evaluation of OFDM Transmission in UAV Wireless Communication

Zhiqiang Wu
Dept of ECE West Virginia University Institute of Technology Montgomery, WV 25136 Email:

Hemanth Kumar
Control Systems Engineering WVUIT Montgomery, WV 25136

Asad Davari Dept of ECE

WVUIT Montgomery, WV 25136

Abslmct-The use of multipIe unmanned aerial vehicles both ends of the communication system are flying at a high (UAVs) in collaborative missions is an increasing research area speed and the relative speed could be as high as 500 miles for military planners. One of the important factors to ensure per hour. The high speed of UAVs makes the wireless channel the collaboration among swarm UAVs is the reliable, high performancevirefess communication links among UAVs. Because quite challenging to deal with. Furthermore, OFDM systems of its high frequency eficiency and high performance, OFDM currently are employed largely in wireless LAN and wireless based multi-carrier transmission technology has been considered MAN scenarios where mobility is normally negligible. (Reone of the strong candidates for swarm UAV communications. cently, there is some emerging research in supporting relatively However, UAV communication links are quite different f r o m high mobility in Wireless MAN, e.g., IEEE 802.16 society Wireless LAN and Wireless MAN environments where OFDM is currently used. In this paper, we thoroughly analyze the BER [SI). Hence, a thorough evaluation of the performance of OFDM performance of WEE 802.lla compatible OFDM system in a UAV widess communication chamel where a large Doppler shift system in such a high mobility environment needs to be conhas been observed and where Inter-Carrier-InterferenceUCI) is ducted. Specifically,such high mobility leads to a much shorter much larger than those of Wireless LAN and Wireless MAN coherence time and a larger Doppler spread in the multi-path scenarios. fading channel. As a direct result, the orthogonality among

I. INTRODUCTION New generation of UAVs is emerging, using innovations and creative enterprises, to transform both military and civilian aerospace operations and airspace operations [I]. One of the crucial factors to ensure the collaboration among swarm UAVs is the reliable, high performance wireless communication links among UAVs. The air-to-air UAV communication system enables the sharing of sensor and map information among UAVs, while an air-to-ground communication system provides mission information to the ground station for mission control and display. Due to the high BER performance and high spectral efficiency of OFDM based multi-carrier transmission technology [2][3] and particularly due to the success of OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) technology io Wireless LAN (IEEE 802.1 I g P I , IEEE 802.1 l a [4], Hyper LAN I1 [6]) and Wireless MAN (IEEE 802.16 [71), it is of strong interest to apply off-the-shelf OFDM based multi-carrier transmission equipments (e.g., E E E 802.11a, IEEE 802.16) to suppon high data rate wireless communications among UAVs. However, the wireless communication channel in UAV communications is largely different from other "traditional" wireless channels. Specifically, in traditional wireless communications, one end (the base station) is fixed and the relative speed of the other end (mobile terminal) to base station is less than 80 miles per hour. By contrast, in UAV communications,
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subcaniers is lost and inter-carrier-interference degrades the performance. In this paper, we derive the design criteria of applying OFDM technology to UAV communications and evaluate the BER performance of IEEE 802.11a OFDM system in a typical UAV communication channel. Section I1 briefly outlines the OFDM system architectures; Section U1 describes the UAV communication channel and design criteria of applying OFDM technology into such channels; and Section IV provides the BER performance evaluation. An analysis and conclusions follow.

Figure 1 ilIustrates the system architecture of an OFDM system [2][9]. In Figure 1, the input data stream is multiplexed into N symbol streams, each with symbol period T,. Next, each symbol stream is used to modulate parallel, synchronous sub-carriers [I]. The sub-carriers are spaced by I/NTs in frequency domain, thus they are orthogonal over the symbol i.e., duration interval (0, Ts),



cas(27T. m . 4 t 3- 4 , ) C O S ( 2 T

I n .


+4n) =0


where m # n. The transmitted OFDM symbol can be expressed as

f OFDM System Fig. 1. Block Diagram o

Doppler spread is a measure of the spectral broadening caused by the t h e rate of change of mobile radio channel. The Doppler spread in the frequency domain is closely related to the rate of change of the envelope of the received signal. where the X,,, is the baseband data symbols on mth sub- Since UAVs are flying at high speed, a large Doppler spread carrier. is observed. Upon transmission over a multipath fading channel, there More importantly, one of the main disadvantages of OFDM is frequency selectivity over the entire bandwidth, but each system is its susceptibility to small differences in frequency carrier experiences a unique flat fade (typical of OFDM at the transmitter and the receiver (normally referred to as transmission), At the receiver side, the received signal (after frequency offset). When the Doppler spread is large, orthogtransmission over a frequency selective fading channel), y(n), onality among OFDM subcarriers is lost, i.e., is converted back to frequency domain (by applying a N point FFT) to create a discrete N point sequence Y ( n . ) ,n corresponding to each sub-carrier. The demodulated symbol cos(2~(m.4f+sf,)t+#~)cos(2~(~ #. 0 ~~~~~)~~~~) stream is given by:



~ ( m =)

C y(n)e-~*

-+ w(m)



where W ( m ) corresponds to the FFT of the samples of w(n), which is the Additive White Gaussian Noise (AWGN) introduced in the channel.
III. OFDM IN UAV COMMUNICATION CHANNEL The propagation effects that must be accounted for i n the UAV channel model are: time delay spread, Doppler spread, power, frequency of operation, free space loss, fading rate, multipath diffraction and shadowing, as well as general background noise. Often caused by multipath conditions, fading can degrade the Bit-Error-Rate (BER) performance. However, when OEDM is being applied in UAV communications, Doppler shift becomes a crucial component. Doppler shift is the frequency shift experienced by the radio signal when either the transmitter or the receiver is in motion, and

(4) where 6fm is the Doppler frequency shift at mth carrier. As a direct result of loss of orthogonality, Inter Carrier Interference (ICI) is introduced and 3ER performance degrades. Now lets analyze the effects of Doppler spread in mobi!e channels on OFDM systems. We use a maximum UAV speed of 250 miles per hour here in the analysis. Since both ends of the communication system are moving, the relative speed between two UAVs could be as high as 500 miles per hour. The worst case maximum Doppler shift corresponding to the operation a t 5 GHz (IEEE802.1 l a standard) is [lO][ll]

The coherence time of the channel corresponds Doppler shift, is shown as [10][11]

to the

T, =


1 6 . ~ . = 0.114ms


Without loss of generality, we consider the Oth carrier and its carried data symbol. In AWGN channel, it is easy to show that the signal to interference and noise ratio (SINR) is (assuming BPSK modulation)

This means an update rate of about 8.75KHz is required for channel estimation and equalization. Consequently, the packet size of OFDM system needs to be adjusted (decreased) accordingly to the high update rate. C 1 is observed at the receiver side, the received When I OFDM signal is given by [9]
y(r1) = z'(n)ej?




+W ( . )

where E[.]is the mathematical expectation. Hence, the BER of OFDM system with IC1 corresponds to


where d(n) is the received OFDM signal transmitted over

the fading channel without ICI, E is the normalized frequency

offset. Given fm is the frequency offset and Ts is the OFDM symbol duration,


[ I T ]

3 -t



u .p




symbols (and 4 pilot tones). To model realistic UAV wireless environments, the Rayleigh fading channel employed in our simulation demonstrates frequency selectivity over the entire bandwidth, BW, but flat fading over each of the N carriers. Specifically, we assume a channel model with coherence bandwidth, (Af)c, characterized by

f gam0.03

lo l5
6 " l

(Af),/BW = 0.25


As a result, the ai's in the 52 carriers are correlated according to






Fig. 2. I C 1 Ccefficienls for IEEE 802.11a OFDM System

where Ri; denotes the correlation between the ifh canier and the jfb carrier, and (fi - f,) is the frequency separation between these two carriers. Generation of correlated fades, for purposes of simulation, has been discussed in [12].

Figure 3 illustrates the simulation results in AWGN channel. Figure 4 shows the simulation results in frequency selective fading channel. In Figures 3 and 4, r axis represents S N R and y axis shows BER. The curve m a r k e d with circles represents the BER performance in UAV channel and the curve marked with stars represents the BER in wireless indoor channel (where Doppler spread and IC1 is minimum). From Figures 3 and 4, it is obvious that the performance degradation introduced by high mobility in UAV communication channel is negligible in AWGN channel and very small in fading channel (about 2dB loss observed at BER = 3

UAV fading channels. In Figure 5 , 5 axis shows relative speed

BEA p r k of OFDM w i h IC1 n AWGN 4 m G I

--c wlltlonout IC1

between OFDM transmitter and receiver in miles per hour, and y axis is BER. The curve marked w i t h circles represents the BER performance at S N R = 30dB and the curve marked with stars represents the BER at SNR = 40dB. It is obvious that when the relative speed grows, the BER performance of OFDM system degrades. Nevertheless, when SNR is low, the BER performance degradation is graceful, while SNR is high, the BER performance degrades drastically. This difference C 1 to noise power ratio increases is due to the fact that I with SNR: when SNR is high, IC1 dominates the noise and performance degradation due to I C 1 is more severe. As can be seen i n Figure 5 , the performance degradation at reasonable SNR and reasonable flying speed of UAV is well tolerated.

E io10- :



fig. 3. Channel

BER Performance of E E E 802.tla OFDM System in AWGN


Fig. 5. BER Performance of OFDM System at Different Speed

T o summarize, when OFDM transmission is introduced to UAV wireless communications, only a slight performance degradation is observed due to larger Doppler spread and Inter Carrier Interference. Hence, the application of current OEDM system into next generation swann UAV communications is a feasible choice.
In this paper, we analyzed the application of OFDM into UAV wireless communications. Specifically, Doppler spread and coherence time have been calculated to determine the proper OFDM system parameters. Next, the Inter Carrier Interference (ICI) and its power have been derived. Then BER performance of OFDM system in UAV wireless communications with large Doppler spread and large IC1 has been analyzed. Simulation results show that the performance degradation of OFDM system due to large Doppler spread and IC1 is we11 tolerated and OFDM is a feasible choice for next generation swarm UAV communications.

10 15





Fig.4. BER Performance of IEEE 802.11a OFDM System in UAV Fading


Figure 5 illustrates the effect of the flying speed of UAVs on BER performance degradation of OFDM transmission in


This work was supported by DoD through Alion Science Technology and Augusta Systems, Inc. Contract NO: SUB1166497lU3 and performed at the Center for Research on Advanced Control of Autonomous Systems and Manufacturing, L .C. N. College of Engineering WVU Tech. The authors would like to thank Yue H u and Travis McCartney for their useful comments.

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