Evaluation of a UAV-Aided WSN for Military Operations: Considering Two Use Cases of UAV

Evaluation of a UAV-Aided WSN for Military Operations: Considering Two Use Cases of UAV

Goran Djukanovic, Dimitris N. Kanellopoulos, Goran Popovic
DOI: 10.4018/IJITN.2022010101
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A Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) assisted with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is flexible and its lifetime becomes longer due to reduced energy consumption in the static sensor nodes. This paper analyses the capabilities of using UAVs in WSNs for enhancing various military and surveillance capabilities. It presents three architectures of UAV-aided WSNs and it uses a realistic simulation environment to evaluate the energy consumption and network lifetime of a UAV-assisted WSN under two different use cases: (1) the UAV is used as relay node; and (2) the UAV is used as mobile sink. In Use Case 1, the network lifetime is more than five times longer than in Use Case 2. Using a UAV as a relay node preserves the network energy for a longer period, regardless of the flying distance of the UAV. In our experiment, three different percentages of distance from the remote Base-Station to the Cluster-Head were involved. If a UAV is flying on 50% distance, the average energy per node expires very quickly. If the distance percentage is at 10%, the average energy per node drops at a much slower rate.
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Recently, the traditional methods of warfare have been transformed into so-called asymmetric warfare; a war between belligerents whose relative military power differs considerably, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly (Resnick, 2013). In asymmetric warfare, the role of Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) is important. A WSN consists of a large number of static sensors deployed across a geographical area of interest. Such a network contains sensor nodes that sense the physical environment for data acquisition, computation, and communication (Karl & Willig, 2007). According to Winkler et al. (2008), the sensors of a WSN can monitor the environment and capture relevant information for military purposes such as detection of enemy movement; identification of enemy forces; border protection; making attacks to fixed or mobile targets; support of combat missions; detection of obstacles, poison gas, landmines, sniper location, etc. A military WSN can also free up troops for other tasks (Lamont et al., 2011). The sensors gather various military data and deliver these to the Base-Station (BS) in real-time, if the BS is within the communication range. Then, these data must be forwarded to the Command and Control Center (C2C) where they will be processed further for taking critical decisions (Pigeau & McCann, 2002). Otherwise, the data are sent to other sensor nodes through routing protocols. A BS is a device that has more energy capacity, processing power, and memory than common sensor nodes. A BS is located at a remote secure and safe location. A sensor is supplied with a battery that is usually unchangeable. On the other hand, the stationary sensors of a WSN are usually located at sites, which are close to the line of demarcation with the enemy forces or at the territory controlled by the enemy forces.

The mobility of UAVs (a.k.a. drones) can enhance the functionality of a WSN that has only static sensor nodes. Such enhancement is due to two main reasons:

  • (1)

    UAVs have more processing power; and

  • (2)

    Mobile sensor nodes can communicate directly with each other via high-speed links.

Through simulation experiments, this paper presents a performance evaluation (i.e., energy consumption and network lifetime) of a UAV–aided WSN under two different roles of UAVs:

  • UAV is used as a relay node (RN) in a WSN; and

  • UAV is used as a mobile sink (MSK) in a WSN.

These UAV roles form two different UAV–aided WSN architectures and constitute two Use Cases for further analysis in our simulation experiment. The main contributions of this paper are:

  • It analyzes the main architectures of UAV–aided WSNs by describing their advantages and the problems that must be tackled;

  • It presents simulation results that evaluate the energy consumption and network lifetime of a UAV–aided WSN under the above two use cases.

The rest of this paper is organized as follows. The second Section discusses the related work on military WSNs. The third Section presents three architectures of UAV–aided WSNs and their characteristics. The fourth Section presents the simulation results of an experiment that has been conducted to evaluate the energy consumption and network life of a UAV–aided WSN under two use cases of UAV. Finally, the fifth Section concludes the paper and gives directions for future work.


A WSN has many types of sensors depending on the situation. This leads to various types of WSNs such as underground, underwater, terrestrial, multimedia, and mobile WSNs. Two vital applications of WSNs, used for military operations in a broad sense, are surveillance systems and military monitoring.

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