The Network Function Virtualization (NFV) paradigm is one of the key enabling technologies in the development of the 5 th generation of mobile networks. This technology aims to lessen the dependence on hardware in the provision of network functions and services by using virtualization techniques that allow the softwarization of those functionalities over an abstraction layer. In this context, there is increasing interest in exploring the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to offer a flexible platform capable of enabling cost-effective NFV operations over delimited geographic areas. To demonstrate the practical feasibility of utilizing NFV technologies in UAV platforms, a protocol is presented to set up a functional NFV environment based on open source technologies, in which a set of small UAVs supply the computational resources that support the deployment of moderately complex network services. Then, the protocol details the different steps needed to support the automated deployment of an internet protocol (IP) telephony service over a network of interconnected UAVs, leveraging the capacities of the configured NFV environment. Experimentation results demonstrate the proper operation of the service after its deployment. Although the protocol focuses on a specific type of network service (i.e., IP telephony), the described steps may serve as a general guide to deploy other type of network services. On the other hand, the protocol description considers concrete equipment and software to set up the NFV environment (e.g., specific single board computers and open source software). The utilization of other hardware and software platforms may be feasible, although the specific configuration aspect of the NFV environment and the service deployment may present variations with respect to those described in the protocol.
network function virtualization (NFV); unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); management and orchestration (MANO), cloud computing platform, virtual network function (VNF), IP telephony service, open source, 5G