Authentication and Handover Challenges and Methods for Drone Swarms

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Aydın Y., Kurt G. K., Özdemir E., Yanikomeroglu H.

IEEE JOURNAL OF RADIO FREQUENCY IDENTIFICATION, vol.6, pp.220-228, 2022 (ESCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 6
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1109/jrfid.2022.3158392
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI)
  • Page Numbers: pp.220-228
  • Keywords: Drones, Authentication, Autonomous aerial vehicles, 3GPP, Handover, 5G mobile communication, Base stations, Drone swarm, group authentication, unmanned aerial vehicles, handover, UxNB, drone base station, user equipment
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Drones are begin used for various purposes such as border security, surveillance, cargo delivery, visual shows and it is not possible to overcome such intensive tasks with a single drone. In order to expedite performing such tasks, drone swarms are employed. The number of drones in a swarm can be high depending on the assigned duty. The current solution to authenticate a single drone using a 5G new radio (NR) network requires the execution of two steps. The first step covers the authentication between a drone and the 5G core network, and the second step is the authentication between the drone and the drone control station. It is not feasible to authenticate each drone in a swarm with the current solution without causing a significant latency. Authentication keys between a base station (BS) and a user equipment (UE) must be shared with the new BS while performing handover. The drone swarms are heavily mobile and require several handovers from BS to a new BS. Sharing authentication keys for each drone as explained in 5G NR is not scalable for the drone swarms. Also, the drones can be used as a UE or a radio access node on board unmanned aerial vehicle (UxNB). A UxNB may provide service to a drone swarm in a rural area or emergency. The number of handovers may increase and the process of sharing authentication keys between UxNB to new UxNB may be vulnerable to eavesdropping due to the wireless connectivity. In this work, we present a method where the time and the number of the communication for the authentication of a new drone joining the swarm are less than 5G NR. In addition, group-based handover solutions for the scenarios in which the base stations are terrestrial or mobile are proposed to overcome the scalability and latency issues in the 5G NR.