Non-terrestrial Communications Assisted by Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces

Non-terrestrial communications have emerged as a key enabler for seamless connectivity in the upcoming generation networks. This kind of network can support high data rate communications among aerial platforms (i.e., unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), high-altitude platforms (HAPs), and satellites) and cellular networks, achieving anywhere and anytime connections. However, there are many practical implementation limitations, especially overload power consumption, high probability of blockage, and dynamic propagation environment. Fortunately, the recent technology reconfigurable intelligent surface (RIS) is expected to be one of the most cost-efficient solutions to address such issues. RIS with low-cost elements can bypass blockages and create multiple line-of-sight (LoS) links, and provide controllable communication channels. In this paper, we present a comprehensive literature review on the RIS-assisted non-terrestrial networks (RANTNs). Firstly, the framework of the RANTNs is introduced with detailed discussion about distinct properties of RIS in NTNs and the two types of RIS, that is, terrestrial RISs (TRISs), and aerial RISs (ARISs), and the classification of RANTNs including RIS-assisted air-to-ground (A2G)/ground-to-air (G2A), ARIS-assisted ground-to-ground (G2G), and RIS-assisted air-to-air (A2A) communications. In combination with next-generation communication technologies, the advanced technologies in RANTNs are discussed. Then we overview the literature related to RANTNs from the perspectives of performance analysis and optimization, followed by the widely used methodologies. Finally, open challenges and future research direction in the context of the RANTNs are highlighted.
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