Electrical Engineer, Cyber Security (purple hat), Drones & Robotics, Professor, And an entrepreneur

Cellular (5G/LTE) Coverage Scanner Drone

Tamimi September 30, 2022 [Professional] #drone #robots #Survey #Brazil #platform #indropilot #BVLOS #UAV #5G #Cellular #Autonomy #ground station


This encompasses two projects, but for the sake of convenience and due to their shared similarities, I have decided to present them together.

The first project involves scanning the cellular network using a Software-Defined Radio (SDR) equipped on a drone. This SDR scans the bands and nearby towers. The setup (SDR + Drone) was already completed in the NERDs project, which you can read more about in the linked article. Additionally, the software integration was already implemented in the platform, which you can also read more about in the Indropilot platform.

The second project shares the same goal as the first. However, in this instance, the client used a smartphone attached to the drone instead of the SDR

2021 - Scanning the cellular network using an SDR on a drone

ProjectCellular Scan by a Drone
StatusConceptual design

This project was initiated due to interest from several clients in utilizing drones and their high mobility to scan the sky for cellular coverage. Some clients, primarily cellular operators like Rogers, were interested in the cell coverage around the cell tower Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), as well as the 5G and LTE coverage, and the collection of other metrics. Other clients, such as ISED, were interested in detecting interference on specific radio frequencies and ensuring that cellular operators are adhering to the specific bands allocated to them.

I will refrain from going into detail about this project as it was still ongoing when I left the company, and it is better not to disclose any critical details. However, in a brief explanation, the pilot can remotely access the Software-Defined Radio (SDR) within the Indropilot platform and manually scan the bands at a specific point in space/time. Alternatively, the pilot can activate the auto-mode, and the SDR will scan and collect all predefined metrics throughout the entire flight.

Map the sky module in the platform

Img1: Map the sky module in the platform (Indropilot)

2022 - Scanning the cellular network using a phone on a drone

ProjectCellular Scan by a Drone/phone
StatusSuccessfully delivered
Going through the checklist before one of the missions

Img2: My collogue Ella going through the checklist before one of the missions


The hardware for this project was straightforward and primarily consisted of three major components:

-The Drone: The drone used was the Matrice M300, chosen for several reasons. The primary reason was its ability to hot-swap batteries, which was crucial given the limited daily time frame for flights. Additionally, the M300 is an excellent drone that can lift the payload (phone) for this mission without being excessively large, yet strong enough to maintain speed and balance in windy weather.

-The Phone: I recommended the client to acquire the SONY Xperia 1 IV1 as it supports both sub-6GHz and mmWave for the bands in question, in addition to LTE. We also used a NOKIA phone (not a commercial model) to scan the private NOKIA network in the field.

SONY Xperia 1 IV Cell Specs

Img3: SONY Xperia 1 IV cellular and network Specs

-The Phone Case: A 3D printed case was used that fits several phone sizes that were used in these missions.

Projects harddware

Img4: All the project hardware listed above in one picture, including the car, as seen below!


The software components for this project consisted of several Android apps running in the background, collecting all the necessary metrics. The primary ones were G-NetTrack Pro2 and Network cell Info Lite3. It's important to note that these applications were used to collect the metrics, not to process and build the network visualization, as that was within the client's scope.

Projects Software

Img5: G-NetTrack Pro in action, credit to the picture from the play store


The missions were categorized based on the network, some of which were LTE while others were 5G. Some missions involved commercial cellular networks (Rogers), while others involved private ones (Nokia). Additionally, some missions were conducted on-site (at AreaXO), while others were off-site at various locations.

The general process for all these missions followed the steps below:

vid1: A typical mission of collecting the metrics


The majority of the challenges encountered in this project were operational, as listed below:

vid2: Some missions were conducted in snowy/extreme cold conditions

vid3: The use of the car (my personal car for the record) was crucial part in some of these missions as we needed to follow the drone to maintain the line-of-sight and to keep the RC link alive.

vid4: Some of other challenges like high cross-wind (max we had was 14m/s) and bird migrations that delayed the launch of some of these flights!

Special Thanks

Special thanks goes to my colleague, Ella, who was the pilot in most of these flights (I was just the driver!), as she even continued to work despite her having Covid-19 in the last few missions!

my colleague Ella

Img6: My colleague, Ella, in the portable control center doing something smart!

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SONY Xperia 1 IV Specs


G-NetTrack Pro Play_Store


Network cell Info Lite Play_Store

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