The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is looking to utilize blockchain technology to secure aircraft flight data. The agency proposed an air traffic management blockchain that will help ensure the privacy and security of aircraft flight data. NASA unveiled the plans via a paper published on Monday, January 7.
Aircraft security issues can be mitigated by blockchain
Ronald Reisman, an aero-computer engineer at NASA Ames Research Center, recently published a paper advocating for the use of blockchain networks and smart contracts as a means of reducing security issues in aircraft data.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to start using a new surveillance system, dubbed the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), by January 1, 2020. The new surveillance system will publicly broadcast information related to an aircraft’s identity, position, etc. According to Reisman, this has raised some security concerns amongst shareholders. He pointed out that the ADS-B system “does not include provisions for maintaining these same aircraft-privacy options, nor does it address the potential for spoofing, denial of service, and other well-documented risk factors.”
He noted that civil aircraft companies prefer to keep some data private in order to make it harder for executives to be tracked as part of corporate espionage operations. Further, according to the Department of Defense (DoD), the disclosure of military aircraft traffic data could expose critical infrastructure weaknesses, the exploitation of which would disrupt DoD operations and potentially lead to the destruction of DoD property. Reisman stated that due to the sensitivity of related air traffic data, the need for confidentiality in military operations will serve as a key factor in determining the adoption and future use of the ADS-B.
Reisman presented a prototype designed to tackle these security concerns. The proposed Aviation Blockchain Infrastructure (ABI) utilizes Hyperledger Fabric to facilitate the execution of smart contracts. This technology would allow users to choose which data they share publicly vs privately with authorized personnel.
According to the paper, “this framework features certificate authority, smart contract support, and higher-bandwidth communication channels for private information that may be used for secure communication between any specific aircraft and any particular authorized member.”
Reisman proposed that certain information, such as aircraft type, origin, destination, filed route, etc., can be made public, while other data, such as altitude, indicated airspeed, heading, etc., could be kept secure via a private channel.
He added, “we propose to use a ‘lightly permissioned’ blockchain framework to enable the ADS-B systems to meet or exceed the same levels of privacy and security currently provided by radar-based systems in the NAS [National Airspace System].”
NASA first ventured into the blockchain space in 2017 when the agency awarded a 330,000 USD grant to a professor at the University of Akron to assist in the development of an autonomous, blockchain-based spacecraft system.
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