Research Triangle

Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless 

Platform Now in General Availability for Research

AERPAW is a first-of-its-kind aerial wireless experimentation platform with the goal to accelerate the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the national air-space, and to enable new advanced wireless features for unmanned aerial system (UAS) platforms, such as flying base stations for hot spot wireless connectivity. As part of this effort, AERPAW is developing a software-defined, reproducible, and open-access advanced wireless platform with experimentation features spanning 5G technologies and beyond.

AERPAW is led by North Carolina State University (NC State) in partnership with the Wireless Research Center of North Carolina, Mississippi State University, RENCI, the city of Raleigh, and many other academic, industry and municipal partners.



AERPAW Interactive Coverage Area Map – Click icon at top left for details



Lake Wheeler – Platform includes edge compute, backhaul connectivity, cloud access

  • 1 tower-mounted fixed node with SDRs
  • Multi-sector Ericsson base station – 5G NSA/SA
  • 2 UAVs and 1 automated rover with SDRs
  • Multiple ground-based and UAV-mounted COTS user endpoints
  • AERPAW has flight waivers and drone flight operators available for researchers

 Coming in 2023

  • 4 additional towers with fixed nodes with SDRs, including 3 with LoRA IoT equipment
  • 4 UAVs and 3 automated rovers w/SDRs
  • Flight operations center
  • Keysight RF sensors


Centennial Campus

  • 2 rooftop Facebook Terragraph nodes (1 more coming in 2023)


  • Keysight Propsim
  • SDRs supporting emulation and including support for OAI and srsRAN stacks

Experimentation Software – Software for SDRs includes OpenAirInterface, srsRAN, GNU Radio, and Matlab. Experiment software runs on docker containers at fixed/portable nodes.

Spectrum – Current spectrum bands for aerial use include 1.7 GHz, 2.1 GHz, 3.4 GHz

Click here to visit the AERPAW website.





Testing of 5G Links for Drone Communications

The ensure the effective use of 5G communications by UAVs, researchers must test 5G links with a variety of network traffic types including telemetry, command and control, and payload (multimedia). AERPAW provides the hardware, software, and flight capabilities to run these experiments and optimize parameters for improved performance.

Air Corridors Drone Link Emulation

AERPAW’s emulation system enables the testing of flight scenarios where UAVs are required to avoid collisions and reroute around obstructions.

5G-Enabled Smart Agriculture

5G drone communications will support remote video monitoring of crops and livestock. AERPAW’s agricultural sites and testbed equipment make it possible to test this functionality both to optimize performance and determine what insights can be gained.




Communications Standards for Unmanned Aircraft Systems: The 3GPP Perspective, Driver
Published in IEEE Communications Standards Magazine, Volume: 5, Issue: 1, March 2021, DOI: 

National Radio Dynamic Zone Concept, Autonomous Aerial and Ground Spectrum Sensors
arXiV, 17 Mar 2022, DOI:

Experimental Study of Outdoor UAV Localization and Tracking using Passive RF Sensing
WiNTECH’21: Proceedings of the 15th ACM Workshop on Wireless Network Testbeds, Experimental evaluation & Characterization, 31 January 2022- 4 February 2022, DOI:



Click here to visit the AERPAW website.

AERPAW is part of the National Science Foundation’s PAWR program, and is funded in part by NSF award CNS-1939334, and by the PAWR Industry Consortium