High Performance, Multimodal Communications System for Unmanned Aircraft - ON-195

Preferred Disciplines: Systems and Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, Electrical Engineering (Post-Doc or PhD)
Company: Anonymous
Project Length: 16-24 months (4 units)
Desired start date: May 1, 2019 or sooner
Location: Ottawa, ON
No. of Positions: 1
Preferences: Postdoctoral level preferred;  Ph.D. candidates may also be considered.

About the Company: 

Privately owned aerospace technology company headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. The company is developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and aircraft telemetry and health monitoring systems.

Project Description:

Existing commercial drone communications and control technology mainly focuses on small drones with limited range, payload, and altitude capabilities. Military systems for larger, long-range drones are not cost sensitive nor necessarily suited to commercial needs. Meanwhile, governments around the world anticipate the integration of drones with greater capabilities into national airspace. The project will conduct research to address this gap: how to develop new systems that combine reliability, safety, and cost effectiveness as required for high performance civilian drones. The project will lead to new knowledge about how existing cellular and satellite communications infrastructures can be leveraged to support the burgeoning drone and autonomous vehicles industries.

The project will be carried out by a combined academic/industry team that will research and test new communications methodologies while relying on, and pushing the boundaries of, prior bodies of research developed under more limited circumstances. The project will develop new ways of using satellite and 4G and 5G cellular networks to provide data as reliably and cost-effectively as possible. Flight testing will be conducted to implement and revise, for example, methodologies to improve quality of service, reduce transmission errors, and to learn how to anticipate failures in one or all communications modes.

Research Objectives:

  • Establish acceptable communications failure rate/type benchmarks with respect to industry and government requirements and the state-of-the-art as reflected in current scientific literature.
  • Develop and document reliable failover mechanisms (mode switching) under challenging conditions where errors and loss of communication would normally occur.
  • Study factors that induce failure under lab and real flight conditions.
  • Using error coding and other techniques, reduce failure rates and latency.
  • Develop means of increasing useful information transmitted while respecting strict limitations on volume of bytes and failure benchmarks. Improve security.
  • Use results to improve the sophistication of rules governing switching between satellite, cellular, and other modes of communication.


  • This project research is applied in nature and will develop new communications methodologies relying on extensive field work (flight test data) to advance the state of the art relative to existing methodologies that have been tested under conditions that are typically less varied and demanding.
  • Configurable, low-end hardware will be used as much as possible with reliance on software engineering to achieve project objectives.

Expertise and Skills Needed:

  • High level of skill with embedded software development would be valuable
  • Knowledge of Python, C++, Linux, etc.
  • Familiarity with satellite, cellular, and radio communications systems would be an asset.
  • Familiarity with internet of things (IoT) technologies.

For more info or to apply to this applied research position, please

  1. Check your eligibility and find more information about open projects
  2. Interested students need to get the approval from their supervisor and send their CV along with a link to their supervisor’s university webpage by applying through the webform.