In airborne sensor networks (ASNs), the media access control (MAC) protocol faces a serious unfairness problem due to the traditional protection mechanism of air-to-air communications among aircraft. Actually, by using the binary exponential back-off algorithm at high traffic loads to minimize collisions among users, the latest successful node can always benefit from this kind of MAC to obtain channel resources. Moreover, when taking the existence of the hidden nodes in ASNs into account, the inaccurate traffic load information will further aggravate the system’s unfairness. In this paper, a neighbor-channel-aware (NCA) protocol is proposed to improve the fairness of MAC protocol in ASNs. In the proposal, the NCA frame is firstly added and exchanged between neighbor nodes periodically, which helps to resolve the inaccurate traffic load information, so as to avoid reducing the probability of successful message transmission. Then a traffic-loading based back-off algorithm is involved to make the neighbor nodes cooperatively adjust the inter-frame space (IFS) interval to further reduce the unfairness. The simulation results show that, the proposed MAC protocol can guarantee the satisfied fairness, simultaneously avoiding heavy network overloads to protect key messages’ successful transmissions in ASNs.
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