The Mobile
Broadband Standard


November 18, 2019

To address the needs of a new and quickly maturing sector, there has been a lot of activity in the 3GPP Working Groups to ensure that the 5G system will meet the connectivity needs of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) – consisting of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (aka. drones) and UAV controllers under the watchful eye of UAS traffic management.

As 5G use cases have evolved, new studies and new features are needed, for the safe operation of UAVs, but also to ensure that other users of the network do not experience a loss of service due to their proximity to Unmanned Aerial Systems.

UAS graphic v2

Here are some of the areas being addressed in the latest 3GPP Releases:

Release 15 - Enhanced LTE Support for Aerial Vehicles (TR 36.777)

A study to Investigate the ability for aerial vehicles to be served using LTE networks is now published, identifying further performance enhancements for UE-based solutions, Network-based solutions, downlink interference mitigation, uplink interference mitigation, mobility performance and aerial UE Identification.

Also, in Release 15, there were enhancements to TS 36.331 (Section 5.5.4 - Measurement report triggering) to address the issue of aerial UE interference to the base station (eNodeB). The enhancements included the addition of two reporting events - H1 (above) and H2 (below) UE height thresholds - to help the eNodeB to see the UAV and to deal with any potential interference. Other measures for signaling and to reduce interference by the UAV were also added.

Release 16 - Remote Identification of Unmanned Aerial Systems (TS 22.125, Section 5)

3GPP SA1 has completed a study into the potential requirements and use cases for remote identification and on the services to be offered based on remote identification of the UAS.
Release 17 - Study on supporting Unmanned Aerial Systems Connectivity, Identification, and Tracking (TR 23.754)

Looking at the architecture and system aspects of command and control functions, having identified the UAS, this study looks at the extent to which the 3GPP system can enable UAS components to establish the necessary connectivity between each other and UAS Traffic Management (UTM) – for both line of sight connectivity and non-line of sight connectivity, and on the detection and reporting of unauthorized UAVs towards the UTM.

Release 17 - Study on application layer support for Unmanned Aerial System (UAS)

The App. dedicated group - 3GPP SA6 – are studying the use cases and requirements (from 3GPP SA1) regarding UAS identification and tracking. Taking the service requirements resulting from TS 22.125 - SA6 is now looking at the potential impact on the application layer, in particular the application support/enabler functionalities for UTM and the service interactions between UAS and the UTM (e.g. fly route authorization, location management, group communication support).

The group is considering architectures and solutions already developed for mission critical and V2X services, for re-use in aerial systems (See 3GPP SP-181252).

Release 17 - 5G Enhancement for UAVs (TS22.125; TS22.261)

To further meet the needs of 5G connectivity of drones – this work will produce new KPIs and communication needs of the UAV with a 3GPP subscription. Specifically, requirements relating to the following will be documented: KPIs based on communication service, KPIs for command and control traffic, On-board radio access node (UxNB), service restriction for UAV, Network exposure for the UAV.

Up-to-date information on all of the above work can be found in the 3GPP Work Plan.  

This article was written for the December 2019 edition of the ETSI Enjoy! magazine. It was produced by: Kevin FLYNN, Marketing and Communications Officer, 3GPP - Using the following Work plan material:

Further reading

Updated November 23, 2019. 

750042  Study on enhanced LTE Support for Aerial Vehicles   FS_LTE_Aerial Rel-15  R2  RP-171050  TR 36.777 - Enhanced LTE support for aerial vehicles 
780069 Enhanced LTE Support for Aerial Vehicles  LTE_Aerial Rel-15 R2 RP-172826

TS 36.331 - LTE Radio Resource Control (RRC); Protocol specification (Section 5.5.4 - Measurement report triggering)
810049  Remote Identification of Unmanned Aerial Systems  ID_UAS Rel-16   SP-180771 TS 22.125 (Section 5) - Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) support in 3GPP
810019  Enh. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Stage 1  FS_EAV Rel-17   SP-180909  TR 22.829 - Enhancement for Unmaned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
 840083  5G Enhancement for UAVs  EAV Rel-17   SP-190308 

TS 22.125 - Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) support in 3GPP

See also: Service requirements for next generation new services and markets (TS 22.261)

 820026  Study on application layer support for Unmanned Aerial System (UAS)   FS_UASAPP Rel-17 S6 SP-181252 New TR 23.755
 750042 Study on supporting Unmanned Aerial Systems Connectivity, Identification, and Tracking FS_ID_UAS_SA2 Rel-17 S2 SP-181114 TR 23.754



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