This paper reports experimental results on self-organizing wireless networks carried by small flying robots. Flying ad hoc networks (FANETs) composed of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are flexible, inexpensive and fast to deploy. This makes them a very attractive technology for many civilian and military applications. Due to the high mobility of the nodes, maintaining a communication link between the UAVs is a challenging task. The topology of these networks is more dynamic than that of typical mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs) and of typical vehicle ad hoc networks (VANETs). As a consequence, the existing routing protocols designed for MANETs partly fail in tracking network topology changes. In this work, we compare two different routing algorithms for ad hoc networks: optimized link-state routing (OLSR), and predictive-OLSR (P-OLSR).
The latter is an OLSR extension that we designed for FANETs; it takes advantage of the GPS information available on board. To the best of our knowledge, P-OLSR is currently the only FANET-specific routing technique that has an available Linux implementation. We present results obtained by both Media Access Control (MAC) layer emulations and real-world experiments. In the experiments, we used a test bed composed of two autonomous fixed-wing UAVs and a node on the ground. Our experiments evaluate the link performance and the communication range, as well as the routing performance. Our emulation and experimental results show that POLSR significantly outperforms OLSR in routing in the presence of frequent network topology changes.