IEEE International Symposium on Personal, Indoor and Mobile Radio Communications
31 August-3 September 2020 // Virtual Conference

T07: Aerial Access Networks for 6G: Integration of UAV, HAP, and Satellite Communication Networks


Prof. Lingyang Song,
Peking University, CN

Prof. Zhu Han,
University of Houston, US

Dr. Boya Di,
ImperialCollege London, UK

Dr. Hongliang Zhang
University of Houston, US


£50 Tutorial only | Tutorial + Full Conference access from £120

Half-day Tutorial, Monday 31st August 14:00 (BST)
Further pricing details can be found on the registration page.

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The current development of 5G networks represents a breakthrough in the design of communication networks, for its ability to provide a single platform enabling a variety of data services. Nevertheless, looking at the significant enhancements enabled by 5G, it is already possible to envision the need to move towards sixth generation (6G) with a new architecture.

Providing “connectivity from the sky” is one innovative trend for beyond 5G or coming 6G communication systems.

Satellites, high and low altitude platforms (HAP and LAP), drones, aircrafts, and airships are being considered as candidates for deploying wireless communications complementing the terrestrial communication infrastructure. Combining these network elements, the aerial access network (AAN) has attracted many attentions from both academia and industry, recognized as a potential solution for the 6G systems. AANs are subject to heterogeneous networks that are engineered to utilize satellites, HAPs, and LAPs to build network access platforms.

Compared to terrestrial wireless networks, AANs are characterized by frequently changed network topologies and more vulnerable communication connections. Furthermore, AANs have the demand for the seamless integration of heterogeneous networks such that the network quality-of-service (QoS) can be improved. However, design, analysis, and optimization of AANs require knowledge of wireless communications and networking, signal processing, artificial intelligence (e.g., for learning), optimization, and economic theory.

There are three main objectives of this tutorial.

  • To provide a general introduction to AANs integrated networks based on physical, MAC, and networking layer requirements.
  • To introduce the key components and the corresponding techniques to enable AANs, and the related design, analysis, and optimization problems will be presented in a comprehensive way.
  • To elaborate on the state-of-the-art of AANs along with possible applications. This will include classifications of the different schemes and the technical details in each scheme. Many 3 / 8 examples will be illustrated in detail so as to provide a wide scope for general audience.

Structure and content

  1. Overview of 6G
    • Starting with an introduction to wireless communications (including radio propagation and channel models), different wireless access technologies that have the potential to satisfy the requirements of 6G urging a fully-connected world will be briefly reviewed.
    • Major elements of AAN, i.e., UAV, HAP, and satellite communications, will be presented. The unique characteristics of each of them, such as coverage, channel models, etc., will be introduced.
  2. Theoretical Backgrounds
    • Graph theory and optimization techniques will be discussed. Major variations of optimization techniques (e.g., unconstrained and constrained optimization, nonlinear optimization, combinatorial optimization) and graph-related algorithms (e.g., coloring, cutting, matching) will be presented.
    • Game theory and machine learning techniques will be discussed in the context of optimizing radio resources. Game theory is an attractive tool to model the spectrum sharing problem in an aerial communications network. The basics of different game theoretic models will be discussed. Learning-based methods are useful especially for the incomplete-information case in practice. State-of-the-art learning techniques including reinforcement learning and deep learning will be investigated.
  3. UAV Applications over Cellular Networks
    • The first type of UAV applications is to consider UAVs as aerial IoT users for sensing purposes by leveraging its advantages of on-demand flexible deployment. To support diverse requirements, e.g., low latency and high throughput, it is desirable to design joint sensing and communication protocols, and to develop cooperation techniques for multiple UAV users. A specific IoT application, i.e., UAV-based image sensing, will be demostrated where a data-driven approach is utilized for information integration.
    • For the second type of applications, UAVs serve as flying infrastructures, i.e., relays or base stations, to provide aerial access from the sky. The way to plan the time-variant placements of UAVs in this case is very challenging due to the complicated 3D propagation environments as well as many practical constraints such as power and flying speed. Major issues such as UAV deployment, resource allocation, and access control will be discussed. In addition, spectrum sharing with existing cellular networks is another interesting topic to investigate.
  4. High-Altitude Platform Communication Networks
    • High altitude platforms (HAPs) have the potential to deliver a range of communications services and other applications in a cost-efficient way. This part explains a step change in performance and availability, and illustrates the HAPs’ advantages of being able to deliver high capacity similar to that available from terrestrial systems and wide-area coverage similar to that available from satellites.
    • To integrate seamlessly with existing communication networks and to achieve wide adoption among potential users, the HAP network should be compatible with the existing or developing communication standards with necessary adaptations for some specific applications and the operating environment. Specific emphasis is on how this technology will integrate with terrestrial/satellite infrastructure to support broadband services.
  5. Satellite Communication Networks
    • With recent significant advances in ultra-dense low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, satellite access networks (SANs) have shown their great potential to integrate with terretrial communications to support ubiquitous global wireless access. This part proposes enabling network architecture for dense LEO-SANs in which the terrestrial and satellite communications are integrated to offer more reliable and flexible access.
    • Benefited from the dense topology, satellite flying formation supported by inter-satellite communications provides a new diagram for satellite cooperation, enabling communication and information processing more efficiently. Diversity techniques will be investigated and interference management will be discussed as well.
    • Integration with terrestrial communications is another issue to be investigated, based on which seamless and high-rate wireless links can be provided to wireless devices with different quality of service requirements.
  6. Integration of Aerial Access Networks and Terrestrial Networks
    • The integration issue is critical for fully exploiting the potential of AAN to improve the quality of terrestrial communications. AAN is not a simple addition of all components mentioned above. Its integration with the terrestrial networks will bring some unique challenges such as load balancing, routing, and user association. Key techniques such as network virtulization and cloud-assisted caching, computing, and communication will be explored.

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