Experiment Overview

We envision various different user experimentation scenarios in AERPAW. This page will provide several examples of such experiments. Common to all these scenarios is the platform for advanced wireless (PAW) equipment. The PAWs can be deployed in fixed or portable nodes, and they can be any of the wireless equipment that is supported by AERPAW. Examples of PAW include a software-defined radio (SDR), an RF sensor, a base station, an IoT gateway, or an IoT sensor. Some of these resources are programmable (such as SDRs, and AERPAW drones, by using the companion computers at the AERPAW Nodes); others are not programmable (such as Keysight RF sensors, and commodity drones).

View our experiment repository here.


If you are thinking about using AERPAW for an experiment, welcome!  The first thing we need to appreciate is that AERPAW is designed to operate primarily in batch mode, not live mode.  Like large experimental facilities, such as telescopes and microscopes, AERPAW requires experimenters to prepare and submit experiments.  At a later time, when the set of resources required for that experiment becomes available, a combination of automated and manual operations are undertaken by the AERPAW Operational Personnel (Ops) to run the experiment, and the experimenter subsequently receives the results gathered.  This is the only way we can guarantee compliance with all the appropriate FCC and FAA regulations, as well as other partner agreements, that allow us to provide this unique combination of resources and equipment to our experimenters.

Usage Fees

AERPAW is generally a pay-per-use research facility, since the equipment and human resources to maintain and operate it are significant.  However, in the initial years, NSF is funding the project to make the facility free to use for some groups of researchers.  The groups, as defined by the PAWR Project Office, are described elsewhere on the AERPAW website or wiki; or get in touch with us to help you find out if you fall into one of these groups.  In particular, the AERPAW facility will be free to use for advanced wireless experiments until Summer 2025 for NSF-funded researchers, and for PAWR industry consortium members.

There are a few different ways of preparing a new experiment to run in AERPAW, and not every way is applicable to every possible experiment.  We describe these choices briefly below.  The usage fees for the different approaches are also likely to vary significantly.  If you are in doubt which approach is the best for you, please do get in touch, and we will be glad to help you decide.

Approach 1: Program-it-Yourself (PiY)

This approach provides the highest level of power and generality for the experimenter, and the largest variety of experiments that can be performed.  In this mode, you would access the AERPAW Experimenter Portal to create an initial definition of an experiment, which consists of (i) choosing which specific subset of the AERPAW Fixed Nodes (each in a unique geographical location) you want to include in your experiment, (ii) how many AERPAW Portable Nodes with programmable vehicles you want to include.  (In future, it will become possible to also include some of the third-party commercial equipment in the same experiments.)  These are your target testbed nodes.

After you have completed defining the experiment, you will receive login access to a virtual programming environment, in which you can develop programs for each target AERPAW Node embodying your experimental logic, and making use of the SDR and vehicle resources that are going to be available at the various target nodes; the virtual environment provides you with stubs that mimic, at a high level, the behavior of those resources.  (In the future, we will also be able to give you live login access to a sandbox environment, in which the SDR and vehicle resources are real hardware resources rather than virtual.)  Once you are satisfied with your experiment design, you use the AERPAW Experimenter Portal again to submit your experiment for execution on the testbed.  AERPAW Ops will schedule the experiment to execute at a time when the appropriate resources are available; after it is executed, you will receive the results back through the same virtual environment in which you developed the experiment.

To help you get started, we offer a few pre-programmed sample experiments, or experiment templates or profiles.  You can execute them as-is for yourself, or more generally you can use them as a starting point to build on the provided code, and create your own custom experiment.

There are several details and intricacies to developing an experiment from scratch with this approach; fuller guidance can be found in the user manual, as well as tutorial videos, available from the AERPAW website and wiki.  Although we expect most experimenters to eventually gravitate to using this approach to use AERPAW, for many experimenters the starting point is likely to be one of the other approaches below.  The usage fee for using AERPAW with this Program-it-Yourself approach is likely to be at least somewhat lower than those other approaches since those approaches require additional AERPAW personnel time and effort.

This approach is a good fit for algorithmic experiments.  In particular, any research in which the experimenter wants to test dynamic or adaptive experimental algorithms for any aspect of the experiment (such as SDR control, or UAS trajectory control, or joint control of the two) obviously require AERPAW Nodes to be programmed with such algorithms.

Watch a video on using the Program-it-Yourself approach (as of March 2022)

In all the other approaches (below), you go through a more custom process to create an experiment, with more active help from and interaction with the AERPAW support team.  Each of them is initiated by a help call, rather than through the AERPAW Experimenter Portal.

Approach 2: Experiment-as-a-Service (EaaS)

In this approach, you explain to us, by means of documents and meetings, the AERPAW experiment you envision.  AERPAW personnel will help map the experiment to our experimental resources, and work out the procedures to execute it.  The experiment is then scheduled on the testbed, and executed; subsequently, you receive the experimental result.

Although it is a much more protracted process than Program-it-Yourself, it has the advantage that non-programmable resources can be accommodated in the experiment without additional effort.  For example, some researchers interested in passive signature-based drone detection may want to specify that AERPAW personnel should fly a certain model of drone (or send us their own custom drones) in our wireless field, to test detection algorithms.  Such a drone would typically not be programmable, but we would still be able to manually execute the experiment, if desired by the experimenter.

Approach 3: Experiment-Development-as-a-Service (EDaaS)

This is an amalgamation of Approach 1 (PiY) and Approach 2 (EaaS).  Like EaaS, you explain the experiment to us, but instead of taking over the experiment entirely, AERPAW personnel will help map the experiment to AERPAW, and then program it as a canonical PiY experiment.  Once the base experiment is programmed, it becomes a base you can yourself further develop, and customize, to create future experiments.

Approach 4: Live Limited Access (some equipment)

AERPAW includes some industry-standard commercial equipment typically not available in academic laboratories; we are grateful to be able to make them available for use by our experimenters.  However, many of these are pieces of equipment or ecosystems of components that were designed exclusively for live access and control by the operator, and do not support a programmed or scripted mode of operation.  As such, we cannot provide access to them for our experimenters through our canonical PiY approach.  If you are interested in using such equipment, please get in touch.  By going through some technical material and cooperative agreements, after some initial level-setting, we can provide you with testbed sessions in which you will have live login access to a specific predetermined subset of such commercial equipment.

Mixed and Custom Service Approaches

If none of the above approaches can accommodate some particular, complex requirements of an experimenter, we are always open to discussing and coming up with unique custom approaches to support such requirements.  For example, it may be possible to have a mix of Approaches 1, 2, and 4, where part of the experiment is executed in batch mode programmed by the experimenter, a part is manual by the operator, and part is live limited access. This might allow the experimenter to observe the effect of transmitting a specific waveform from a fixed node (programmed by the experimenter) on a Fortem Radar (live access), while a DJI drone is being flown by an AERPAW pilot (ops).  Please understand that the usage fees of such an approach are likely to be significantly higher than even EaaS and EDaaS approaches; you will essentially be taking over not only a significant part of the platform for an extended duration but a significant part of our support structure and personnel as well.