IEEE International Symposium on Personal, Indoor and Mobile Radio Communications
13–16 September 2021 // Virtual Conference // By 6G Flagship

Towards 6G UAV and Satellite Communications


Dr. Giovanni Geraci
University Pompeu Fabra, Spain

Dr. Adrian Garcia-Rodriguez
Huawei France R&D, France


Drones—a.k.a. UAVs—are taking over many processes requiring efficient, automated, and flexible machines. For their whole ecosystem to take off, the wireless community is trying to address the fundamental challenge of providing reliable cellular service to this new class of mobile devices in both 5G and the future 6G networks. Simultaneously, the cellular communications industry is taking one step upward to the sky: integrating satellite communications in next-generation mobile networks with the ultimate goal of providing anything, anytime, anywhere connectivity. This trend is being followed closely by academia, with a tremendous effort in designing and optimizing the integrated terrestrial and non-terrestrialcellular network of tomorrow.

In light of the unprecented interest in this field, this one-of-a-kind tutorial blends our academic and industrial views to take a holistic approach to UAV and satellite cellular communications:

  • Outside the classroom: A fresh look at the 3GPP standardization status and the performance of UAVs and satellites in 5G NR cellular networks: lessons learnt and essential guidelines.
  • Inside the classroom: Distilling, among others, the fundamental tradeoffs in UAV-to-UAV communications, air-to-ground mmWave propagation, and the orchestration of integrated 3D networks in terms of spectrum sharing, traffic steering, and mobility management.
  • A glimpse to the future: Projected 6G UAV and satellite use cases, requirements, and the potential disruptive technologies to make them a reality: AI for modeling and optimization, THz bands, aerial cell-free architectures, and the support of smart wireless environments.

Structure and content

Part I: UAV Communications in 5G NR (75 minutes)

  • 5G NR UAV use cases, requirements, and dedicated features
  • Sub-6 GHz 5G NR for enhanced UAV cellular support
    • Tackling initial access, cell selection, and interference challenges with Massive MIMO
  • mmWave 5G NR densification for UAV capacity boost
    • Urban and suburban coverage via standard downtilted and ad-hoc uptilted cells
  • D2D in the sky for UAV swarms

Part II: Non-terrestrial networks in 5G NR (60 minutes)

  • Ubiquitous connection in underserved areas
    • Sub-6 GHz direct and mmWave-relayed access with HAPs and LEO satellites
  • Continuous hyper-connection in urban areas
    • Intelligent spectrum allocation, interference mitigation, and mobility management
    • Opportunistic traffic offloading, UL/DL decoupling, and multi-connectivity
  • Open questions for a scalable 3D network integration and orchestration

Part III: UAV and Non-terrestrial communications in 6G (45 minutes)

  • Projected use cases and requirements in the 2030s
  • Disruptive 6G technologies for aerial and spaceborne communications
    • Promising results for Terahertz, cell-free, and reconfigurable wireless systems
    • AI for channel modeling, mobility management, and network optimization