Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)


Electrical Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Fatemeh Afghah

Committee Member

Dr. Kuang-Ching Wang

Committee Member

Dr. Linke Guo


The market of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has seen significant growth in the past ten years on both the commercial and military sides. The applications for UAVs are endless and options by manufacturers allow users to modify their drones for their specific goals. This industry has opened up the excitement of piloting vehicles in the air, photography, videography, exploration of nature from a different point of view and many other hobbies assisted by the emergence of UAVs. The growth of this industry coincides with the roll out of new 5G cellular network technology. This upgrade in cellular network infrastructure allows users higher bandwidth, lower latency, more devices per cell and higher reliability. This has created the question, is 5G suited to support UAV activity? Potentially allowing for two-way transmission of images, videos and data between ground users and the unmanned aerial vehicle. There are many challenges that are presented in flying under these communication conditions which need to be explored such as signal reliability, especially in rural areas, the effects of rapidly changing altitudes or velocity of the drone and the effects of antennas that are tuned for terrestrial users.

The first of its kind work provided in this thesis, will show results for different UAV experiments on a commercial 5G cellular network in the Clemson, South Carolina area. This is a comprehensive study of both low-band and mid-band 5G cellular coverage relating to UAVs as well as a baseline to existing LTE coverage when available. Featuring first of its kind permission to conduct research on a fully commercial cellular network. This research area is largely new, limited information is currently public on the research into commercial 5G cellular networks supporting UAVs. Other researchers are also starting to collect different key performance indicators (KPIs) for flight signals. Most of their works differ in setup, often using private base stations to give connection, but many of these works will be discussed further in the thesis. LTE and 5G enabled flight allows for a wide variety of applications to use UAVs such as natural disaster assessment, animal poaching surveillance, wild fire detection and prevention, assessing the scene of an accident before police arrive and other more hobby or recreational uses. The end goal is to assure that 5G connection is strong enough to transmit the UAVs real time data, which necessary to help first responders on the ground. When many of the potential uses of a cellular connected UAV are potentially life saving, every second counts and signal needs to be fast, reliable and low latency. Therefore, reliable and high bandwidth communication is necessary for unmanned aerial vehicles to take the next step in real life use cases and to begin to explore the option of beyond visual line of sight (BVLoS) flight and 5G might be the network tools which can get it there.



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