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On the Performance of Flying Ad-hoc Networks

(FANETs) with Directional Antennas

M.Asghar Khan1,3, Ijaz Mansoor Qureshi2, Inam Ullah Khan3,Adnan Nasim1, Usman Javed1, and Wasif Khan1

Department of Electrical Engineering,Hamdard Universty Islamabad,Pakistan
Department of Electrical Engineering, Air Universty Islamabad,Pakistan
Department of Electronic Engineering, ISRAUniversty Islamabad,Pakistan


Abstract-The Flying Ad-hoc Networks (FANETs) is relatively a can fly autonomously to provide data communication services
new research area that governs the autonomous movement of for large area without central infrastructure. Examples of such
multiple and small-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). scenarios include regions where topology of the network does
Compared to the traditional ad-hoc networks, FANETs are more
not permit them to deploy base stations in a less amount of
efficient in completing their task in catastrophic situations to
deliver data communication services from the height. However, time. Owning to the versatility and flexibility, the practice of
type of the mission and sensitivity of the application requires an FANETs has opened new horizons for highly sensitive
adaptive, efficient, and scalable communication network for data military and commercial applications such as disaster
transmission among the UAVs. Such network are challenged by management [2], searching operations [3], reconnaissance
the high mobility and frequent topology changes, resulting missions [4], handling wildfire [5], ad-hoc networks relay [6,
connectivity loss problem. In this context, the UAVs in FANETs
7], wind assessment [8], civil security [9], agricultural purpose
have been deployed with omnidirectional antennas, which leads
to restrict the overall performance of the network. Alternately, [10].On one side, in situation of hazardous events when
directional antennas have the potential to enhance the traditional communications infrastructure are not available,
transmission range, spatial reuse, and capacity of the network FANETs can offer a quickly deployable, autonomous, and
effectively. Nevertheless, these benefits also bring some unique cost-effective network for real-time data communications. On
challenges, particularly for the MAC layer. In order to overcome the other side, it brings some unique design challenges due to
such constraints, we propose a new directional antennas based
the high mobility and variation in distance between the flying
medium access control (MAC) protocol to adapt the FANETs
architecture. The idea is to use multiple directional antennas on a nodes.
single UAV with IEEE 802.11 protocol. The design goal is to
improve the overall performance of the network and to provide The typical speed of a UAV in 3D space varies from 30-460
solutions to some of the unique challenges of using directional km/h, resulting connectivity loss problem in FANETs.
antennas. The integrated solution is modeled in OPNET and Additionally, the agile flight states of a UAV also impose
evaluated for throughput, end-to-end delay, and retransmission
grave performance erosion in relation of throughput and delay.
attempts. The simulation results authenticate that the proposed
IEEE 802.11-based directional antennas protocol could Some of these problems can be eliminated with the
significantly increase the performance of FANETs as compared deployment of appropriate antenna type and suitable
to omnidirectional antennas. communication protocols at the MAC layer. Two types of
antennas can be set up for FANETs applications: directional
Keywords—ad-hoc networks, FANETs, directional antennas; and omnidirectional. In FANETs architecture, as the UAVs
MAC, OPNET, UAVs. change their location more often and omnidirectional antennas
have the potential to receive and transmit signals in all
direction without knowing the exact location’s information.
I. INTRODUCTION However, the spatial reuse and transmission range of the

W ITH the recent developments in both electronics and

wireless communication technologies, the functions and
role of UAVs has unlocked the way for the construction of
network will stay restricted. Alternately, directional antennas
have the potential to offers numerous advantages over
omnidirectional antennas such as larger transmission range
FANETs [1]. The UAVs hereby are equipped with sensors that and spatial reuse, because of focusing the total RF energy in a

978-1-5386-6594-7/18/$31.00 ©2018 IEEE

specific direction. However, these benefits arise some unique layer with a single algorithm and can remarkably enhance
challenges particularly for the MAC layer. packet delivery rate and reduce end-to-end delay. In [15], it is
The MAC layer protocols have a thorough impact on how analyzed that directional antennas can drastically modify
successfully data can be transferred between the UAVs. The spatial reuse and network capability of FANETs. Samil, T. and
MAC layer protocols are also liable for coordinating among Bekmezci, I. in [16] explored the challenges and opportunities
the UAVs for the access of the active UAVs to the network of utilizing directional antennas for FANETs and presented
resources. Therefore, a suitable MAC protocol is required to some design procedures. Medjo Me Biomo, Thomas Kunz and
make optimum use of directional antennas. The current MAC St-Hilaire defined DA-FANETs [17].The UAVs hereby were
protocol such as 802.11 standard suites is modified only for equipped with directional antennas. DA-FANETs mechanism
omnidirectional antennas. Due to the high mobility and results better network performance in respect of packet deliver
frequent topology changes of the UAVs, location estimation ratio (PDR) and Latency. In addition, the authors also
and sharing this information with the other UAVs are the key analyzed that the directional antenna allow to cover large area
concerns about directed based MAC protocol. The key impact and to increase transmission range with the same number of
of this research article is to suggest a new MAC protocol to nodes.
adapt the FANETs architecture while using directional
The remaining article is arranged as follows. The previous DEPLOYMENT IN FANETS
work that is done in the area of directional antennas for The FANETs are adapted to expand the communication
FANETs is summarized in section II. In section III, some range and data aggregation capabilities nowadays. We suggest
common challenges regarding directional antennas the utilization of directional antennas to converge all of the RF
deployment are discussed. In section IV, our proposed energy in a particular direction to extend the transmission
directional MAC protocol is presented followed by the range. The longer transmission range leads to lower number of
solutions to some of the controversial problems of using hop count, and hence latency performance of the network can
directional antennas in section V. We model our simulation be improved particularly in the real-time FANETs applications.
environment using OPNET simulator and performance In addition, our approach leads greater bandwidth utilization
analysis are also provided in section VI. Simulation results of and lesser interference. Although, directional antennas have
the proposed scheme are detailed in section VII. Lastly, the multiple advantages when they come with a prize, but it also
paper is concluded in section VIII. brings some unique challenges, particularly for the MAC layer.
We summarize some of the common challenges with
directional antenna in this section that still need to be addressed
II. RELATED WORK . More explicitly, these problems include the hidden and
There are various research articles in the field of directional exposed terminal problems, the head-of-line blocking and
antennas that has only focused traditional VANETs and deafness problems, that is described in details as follows.
MANETs. In the context of FANETs, research is still in its
early stages. Erdem Ulukan and Özgür Gürbüz proposed an
A. The Hidden Terminal Problem
angular MAC (AN-MAC) protocol with directional beams to
enhance the performance of the network [11]. Adaptive MAC The problem befalls as a result of the possibility when the
nodes try to initiate a simultaneous transmission with the
protocol scheme is suggested for UAV networks with
receiver, without knowing the on-going transmission [18]. In
directional antennas in [12]. In this scheme, the authors found such scenario, packets collision occur at the receiver as shown
that the adaptive directional MAC protocol can enhance the in “Fig.1.” Both mobile node A and mobile node C, are in the
network performance by combining the external parameters range of mobile node B. on the other hand, node C and node A
with directionality of the antennas. Similarly, AMAC_UAV is cannot “see” each other and are supposed to be hidden nodes.
proposed in [13]. In this scheme, each UAV in the ad-hoc Packet collision happens in this case, when node C and node A
UAV communication networks is considered to be equipped unknowingly start transmitting packets simultaneously to node
with both directional and omnidirectional antennas. In this B. As a consequence of this specific problem, data loss occurs.
model, UAV has a choice to send packets through directional
antenna or with omnidirectional antenna. Normally, B. The Exposed Terminal Problem
AMAC_UAV sends Control packets (CTS, RTS and ACK) The problem happens when two simultaneous
using omnidirectional antennas while data packets are sent communication are not permissible between the nodes
using directional antennas. It is observed that AMAC_UAV [19].Take “Fig.2”, as an example, node B wished to transmit
scheme can increase network performance considering end-to- to A, while node C wished to transmit to node D at the same
end delay and throughput as a network performance time. Technically, there is no problem because nodes A and D
parameters. Directional antenna-based meshed-tree algorithm will receive only one signal simultaneously. According to the
have proposed by Huba and Shenoy in [14]. This specific figure, the problem arises if node B senses the signal of C and
algorithm provide robust and scalable solution by integrating waits until the medium is free before transmitting their
scheduling and clustering for MAC layer using directional packets. Efficiency of the network reduces with exposed
antenna. Meshed-tree algorithm can handle network and MAC terminal problem in wireless ad-hoc communication networks.
Fig.1. Hidden Terminal Problem Fig.3. Head of Line Blocking Problem

Fig.4. Deafness Problem

Fig.2. Exposed Terminal Problem

The HOL problem arises due to the prioritized “FIFO” PROTOCOL FOR FANETS
queues for packets transmission on the channel [20]. This
effects happens because there might be possibility that the Directional antenna is not available in OPNET by default;
channel is to be free in one direction but busy in the other therefore, we have to design our own. This simulation tool has
direction. If at the top of the queue a packet is blocked, it stops antenna pattern editor where we can design directional
further packets transmission even though if their direction is antennas of our own choice. Our implementation includes the
available for transmission. Examine the circumstances as standard 802.11g DCF MAC protocol with directional
shown in “Fig.3,” where node A is engage in communication antennas. The 802.11g standard is a superset of 802.11b and
with mobile nodes B, D, and E. If node A’s queue has packets was developed to offer higher data rates from 11Mbps to 54
for nodes B, D and E expect the transmission sequentially. Mbps. It is operating in the 2.4 GHz and employs (CSMA/CA)
Mobile nodes B and C are tied up in data transmission and as a key technique in WLAN medium access control (MAC)
node A has to wait until and unless B and C finish their data layer with distributed coordinated function (DCF).
communication. In this case, node A could plan packets for The performance of the FANETs is subjected to several
node E and node D instead of waiting for node B. factors such as high mobility, high altitude, distance variation
between the nodes and fluctuations in link quality. In our
D. The Deafness Problem
proposed scheme, we assumed that the distance among the two
A node that uses directional antenna in wireless ad-hoc UAVs would not go outside the directional antenna
networks is generally considered as “deaf” for all the other transmission range. Moreover, with the help of RTS/CTS
communicating nodes except the one through which the beam messages, a medium access table is constructed to track not
is formed in the direction [21]. Deafness problem is originated only the location of the destinations UAVs but also all the
when a transmitting UAV continually tries to connect with the neighboring UAVs. Details about our proposed directional
receiving UAV, which at the moment focuses on a different based MAC protocols are presented below.
antenna beam with another node. The back off interval is
doubled due to each unsuccessful attempt and hence degrading
network performance. Consider “Fig.4,” where mobile node A. UAV Station Model
A, wishes to connect with node B for data communication, but UAV station model is designed in such a way that every
it has beam formed its antenna towards node C. In this UAV in the network is fitted out with six directional antennas
scenario node B is considered “deaf” to node A. Deafness around 3600. GPS and IMU are also installed externally in our
problems degrade network capacity in respect of end-to- proposed scheme to constantly monitor and update the
end delay and unfair assignment of network resources [22]. positions and locations of neighboring UAVs in MAC table.
The 802.11g standard will use RTS and CTS packets to D. Basic Protocol Operation
reserve the medium for packets exchange. Suppose UAV_A requests to transmit a data packet to
B. Antenna Model UAV_C as exemplified in “Fig.7”.Two messages will be
initiated before data transmissions, called request-to-send
It is a distinguished fact that directional antenna can center
(RTS) and clear-to-send (CTS). In our scheme, these messages
more energy on a desired direction. In our proposed scheme,
will also contain the duration of data transmission, location
we model N=6 separate directional antennas that cover 360o
and orientation information along with the antennas beam
collectively as shown in “Fig.5”, where each antenna will have
number of the UAVs. In this context, UAV_A sends the RTS
a beam width of 60o.We need 6 separate RF modules and 1
packets in all 6 directions. Once, the UAV_C receives RTS
MAC chip in order to implement our proposed protocol as
packet it will sense the channel for (SIFS) interval. If the
depicted in “Fig.6”.In the proposed methodology, we used the
channel is available, it will send back the CTS message and
Friis transmission in “equation (1)”, to derive the antenna
update the target information table. The neighboring UAVs
will also be aware of data packet exchange between the two
UAVs. Each UAV reads the receiver address for the intended
(1) destination and marks the maximum power received beam.
The UAVs other than the destination’s UAV will block their
Where: Pt = the transmitted power, Pr = the received power, own beam in that direction for a specific amount of time by
Gr and Gt is the receiver and transmitter’s gain respectively, DNAV, which is discussed in section E. Similarly,
R=the transmission range and λ=the wavelength. In OPNET communication between UAV_D and UAV_B is possible in
simulator, “setting the parameters as follows will result in a the same basic structure simultaneously by spatial division
transmission range of 1000 m”: Pr = -95dBm, Pt = 0.005 W, multiple access (SDMA) as illustrated in “Fig.8.”
Frequency=2.4 GHz and Gr = Gt = 0dBm.
C. Mobility Model E. Target Information Table
The mobility model used in our proposed study is Random Directional antennas efficiently requires the knowledge of
Waypoint Mobility Model [23].The RPGM model simulates the exact localities of the communicating nodes for
random movement of a group of multiple UAVs with a information exchange. In this context, each UAV frequently
reference point to accomplish a common goal. In our proposed maintains a target information table whenever it receives a
methodology the backbone UAV of each group is positioned frame. The specific UAV add the address of the sending UAV,
at the reference point upon which the speed, direction, and frame, and antenna beam it arrived on. This is done at MAC
altitude of member UAVs depend. At each step point, the layer where MAC protocol provides the exact location of the
location of UAVs is updated according to the backbone UAV. adjacent UAVs in every GPS update interval sequence by
utilizing directional antenna.

Fig.5. Beams configuration of directional antennas with beam width of 600

Fig.7. Sample topology with 6 directional antennas on single UAV

Fig.6. MAC integration with directional antennas
We used OPNET Modeler 14.5 for the simulation and
modeling of our proposed directional antenna MAC protocol.
This simulation tool provides an antenna pattern editor where
we can model the directionality and gain of an antenna. We
modified the node model for omnidirectional antenna and
directional antennas to implement our new MAC protocol as
shown in “Fig.9,” and “Fig.10,” respectively. The node model
of directional antennas provide all the necessary interfaces to
work with 6 individual directional antennas. In this model,
every UAV has 60o beam width, which enables them to cover
360o by 6 antennas. The UAVs can sense the signal level on all
the beams and select the best beam for the destination UAV.
Fig.8. Sample FANETs topology achieving SDMA
The UAVs other than the destination block their own beam.
The data rate to be 54 Mbps for all the UAVs in IEEE 802.11g
standard. The rest of the parameters are summarized in Table 1
F. Directional Network Allocation Vector (DNAV) for further details.
Physical and virtual carrier sensing are the two sensing The performance evaluation is done on the bases of
mechanisms in 802.11. Virtual carrier sensing is performed
throughput, end-to-end delay, and retransmission
with the help of NAV. The directional version of NAV is
called DNAV, which retain only those channels which is in the attempts which will be presented in details as follows.
range of direction of other UAVs. A. Throughput (bits/sec)
The average data rate of successful data packets from source
V. SOLUTION TO COMMON PROBLEMS RELATED TO to destination over a communication link in a unit period of
time is called throughput. Mathematically, throughput can be
In this section, we describe solution to some of the common calculated from equation 2 as given below:
problems with directional antennas.
A. Solution to Hidden Terminal Problem
RTS/CTS packets are communicated in the 802.11 DCF (2)
protocol to resolve this problem using carrier-sensing
mechanism. Nevertheless, it does not completely mitigate
hidden terminal problem. In our case, the RTS packet from the Where N assumed to be the number of successful packets
transmitting UAV and CTS packet from the receiving UAV transferred, S is the size of packet and T is the time duration.
are transmitted directionally. Each node forms a DNAV table Higher throughput is the requirement and characteristic of any
to store the latest updates about the available antenna beams. network.
In our proposed MAC protocol, the DNAV is coordinated with
the target information table of neighboring UAVs. B. End-to-End Delay (sec)
The average time required for a packet to be transmitted
B. Solution to Exposed Terminal Problem from the source UAV to destination UAV across the network.
This problem is overcome with the help of directional (per End-to-end delay comprises processing, queuing, and
sector) NAV times in our proposed MAC protocol. Only those propagation delay of the link in a network. Mathematically, it
sectors will be blocked for transmission that takes the can be shown as below in “equation 3”:
accidental RTS/CTS for the duration of neighboring
transmission. (3)
C. Solution to Head of Line (HOL) Blocking Problem
To solve the concerned problem, we amend the queuing Where N represent the total number of packets delivered,
field to allow the transmission of those packets having least Tt =Transmission time, Rt =Retransmission time, Bt =Buffer
wait time. A packet is planned for transmission with minimum time and Prt =Processing time.
wait time depend on the information present in the DNAV.
D. Solution to Deafness Problem
The deafness problem with directional antennas for C. Retransmission Attempts (packets)
FANETs can be mitigated by describing a novel control The retransmission attempts mean that the number of retries
packet. This packet allows a busy receiver in response to a to transmit a packet successfully. Retransmission attempts
source unmanned aerial vehicle for a specific amount of time. impact the available bandwidth of a link in wireless networks.
“Fig 11a, 11b,” “Fig 12a, 12b,” and “Fig.13a, 13b,”
Parameter Value illustrates the performance of FANETs for omnidirectional
Area Dimensions 1000m x 1000m and directional antennas. In the graphs, x-axis indicates
Number of Nodes 40 simulation time and y-axis specifies the throughput in bits per
Directional Gain 10 dBi second, delay in seconds and retransmission attempts of
Physical Characteristics IEEE 802.11g packets respectively. Our simulation results point out that the
Frequency 2.4 GHz proposed directional-based MAC protocols can provide
Application Simple source significant improvements in the FANETs performance
Packet Interval (s) Exponential (1) particularly in the throughput, end-to-end delay, and
Packet Size(byte) 1024 retransmission attempts. We observed that when the UAVs
Simulation Time 20 minutes moves away and the distance between the connected nodes is
Nodes Type Mobile large while using omnidirectional antennas, the performance
Nodes altitude 25 m of the network degraded. Additionally, when using
Speed of Nodes 60 m/s omnidirectional antennas each UAV in the same BSS (Basic
Reception Power Threshold -95 dBm Service Set) has to wait for other UAVs to finish their
Transmission Power 0.005 W communication before transmitting frames. Whereas, our
proposed directional based MAC protocol enables each UAV
to use the same channel simultaneously for data transmission
in the same basic service set (BSS) with others. Moreover, a
UAV attempts to transmit a packet for each failed transmission
until and unless it receives ACK from the receiving node or
when the maximum retransmission limit is reached.

Fig.11a. Throughput using omnidirectional based MAC protocol

Fig.9. Designing of Node Model equipped with omnidirectional antenna in


Fig.11b. End-to-End delay using omnidirectional based MAC protocol

Fig.10. Designing of Node Model equipped with 6 directional antennas in Fig.12a. Throughput using directional based MAC protocol

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