AERPAW in Raleigh and Cary: Smart cities getting smarter

The Raleigh area is smart and getting smarter.

You may have heard: The Research Triangle will be the third place in the country to test the next generation of wireless technology thanks to a grant.

But here’s what that actually means: Raleigh and Cary will be a “testbed” for new smart city technology. The experimentation connects unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly called drones) and next-generation wireless networks. 

NC State researchers will work with partners to test how these new technologies actually function in the real-world space.

The implications of the experimentation includes better connectivity to communities after natural disasters and use of these technologies for delivering packages.

panel including the project lead and partners shared more Wednesday at the Triangle Smart Cities Summit.

But first, the terminology: 

  • Nodes: “On today’s networks, fixed nodes enable 4G signals to connect to wireless devices. On the AERPAW platform, nodes will be mobile, with the ability to transmit and receive radio waves from user devices while moving on demand,” the release defined.
  • 5G: “fifth generation” wireless, which Mari Silbey of US Ignite defined at the event as a “basket of technologies.” 
  • AERPAW: Aerial Experimentation Research Platform for Advanced Wireless, which is the name of the platform that received the $24M National Science Foundation grant. 

What they hope to accomplish: The purpose is to make communities better, from civic and public service use to economic development.

The experimentation speeds up the process from the lab to real-world uses, panelists shared. 

AERPAW represents experimentation in a new “dimension,” going from the ground and into the airspace. The experiments will be highly mobile, testing how the tech works in a variety of scenarios. 

What’s possible?: When there are faster speeds and lower latency in network connectivity, there’s much more that’s possible with drones: medical use for delivery of defibrillators or blood, or agriculture use with precise, smart readings.

For the Department of Transportation, it would allow them to fly drones to areas after natural disaster to check on road conditions.

And drones with 5G technology could bring wireless connectivity to affected areas after a natural disaster that wouldn’t otherwise have service.

Where will it start? NC State’s Centennial Campus will have two “nodes,” or 5G capabilities, the Lake Wheeler field lab will have one. There are nodes in the drones themselves, as well. The Town of Cary will be brought in year two of the platform.

After that, the technology will open up for outside experimentation and expand to other areas. There will be an opportunity for people to come and get trained on the platform for development, too. 

Want to hear more? Raleigh Convergence will share more ideas from the Triangle Smart Cities Summit in Tuesday’s newsletter.

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