The recent expansion of drone use in numerous fields has caused increased cybersecurity concerns.

Fortunately, there are many compensating controls, including blockchain, radio-frequency security and information countermeasures. These can help bring drone cybersecurity to a positive level, unlocking the immense business and social potential of the emerging drone technology and ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the use of drones has many cybersecurity and privacy implications. Drones can fly over people and property and interfere with the operation of full-size aircraft. They could conceivably carry weapons or dangerous materials to critical locations. At a minimum, drones could take pictures, possibly committing privacy violations. There is also some concern that drones could aid in IT hacking by bringing sensors or disruptive electronics near a possible target.

Fortunately, the U.S. recently passed clear legal governance for drone operations, including some new regulations in late June. But how do we ensure that these regulations are adhered to and that drones are appropriately and safely operated?

Perhaps we should consider a multidimensional system of information guidance to complement the physical guidance of the drone itself.

One interesting and powerful way to do this is via blockchain technology. Blockchain may help regularize and control appropriate use of drones. It does so by keeping a high-speed, assured ledger of airspace activity and information regarding the drone and its operator, and distributing it to all appropriate parties.

For example, the drone’s GPS may receive the locations of other drones, either directly from the others or through drone controllers on the ground. It may also receive security validation of its own hardware, software and provenance.

Signal strength awareness could also help. In general, the radio frequency signal strengths from certain drone models, particularly the ubiquitous quadcopters, obey the inverse-square law and do not differ by a large order of magnitude. An airborne drone may be able to appropriately sense and avoid the location of another drone that is very close by assessing its signal strength.

The drone may also receive external information using radar, chemical viewing or other optical and sonic capabilities. There are four different types of radar: active (using the drone’s transmitter or illuminator), passive (using another drone’s transmitter), basic (from one location) and multistatic (when the radar transmitter and receiver are at different locations).

Coupled radio direction finding is another way for a drone to measure the direction from which a signal was transmitted, using antenna triangulation or wave timing. It can also analyze signals using cognitive pattern recognition. Through this process, a receiver notes that there are several local ground control stations, which seem to be directing drones to roughly the same place at the same time.

IBM is a longtime leader in airspace operations high and low. Very recently, the IBM Weather Company began delivering real-time data to drone operators via AirMap. Other innovations include a method and system for comparing micro-electronic devices using magnetic resonance imaging, a method and system for vessel authentication and location validation, and balanced and
shortened antennae.

OK. So every once in awhile I read something that is so new, so foreign, so far beyond my ken that it makes my head spin. This is such an article – for some context it was written by a guy at IBM which explains the plug. Like the Gartner Hype Report, it is full of new words that are about to become part of our lives.
Apparently blockchain is the underlying technology behind bitcoin – who knew what that was either a year or two ago…? According to another article:

Blockchain  leverages recent advancements in software and low-cost memory, cryptography, communications and computation. Among many initiatives, IBM is a leader in Hyperledger, one of the main open-source implementations of
this technology.

If you really want to get into it, there is of course a TED Talk by Don Tapscott, a Canadian management consultant and best-selling author. He’s not the flashiest or the cleverest speaker though he has a nice twinkle, but the message – an Internet of Value based on disintermediation – is profound:

What is the blockchain? If you don’t know, you should; if you do, chances are you still need some clarification on how it actually works. Don Tapscott is here to help, demystifying this world-changing, trust-building technology which, he says, represents nothing less than the second generation of the internet and holds the potential to transform money, business, government and society.

Spoiler Alert: This video has nothing directly to do with drones, but he does make a compelling case that this is a robust, flexible technology that can be applied in lots of ways. Be aware that this is still very bleeding edge and not universally hailed – still with IBM behind it, the concept warrants a look.




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