NASA Declares Proposal for Air Traffic Management Blockchain to Secure Aircraft Flight Data

Jan 13, 2019 at 15:50 // News

The National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA), U.S-based, is analyzing blockchain as a means to guarantee the privacy and security of aircraft flight information, according to an official paper published on the agency’s website on Monday.

An Aero-Computer engineer at the NASA Ames Research Center, Ronald Reisman, issued a
document on January 7, proposing that distributed ledger technology (DLT) networks and smart contracts can assist some security matters.   

The suggested system would use an open-source permissioned DLT to allow secure, private and more anonymous communication with responsible air traffic services. The paper states:   

“This framework features certificate authority, smart contract support, and higher-bandwidth communication channels for private information that may be utilized for secure communication between any specific aircraft and any specific authorized member.”   

Keeping Sensitive Information Private   

Beginning Wednesday, January 1, 2020, the U.S, has been authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to employ
Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) – a modern surveillance system that will publicly broadcast an aircraft’s identity, altitude & longitude (position) and other important information.   

This has raised a lot of security questions among stakeholders, Ronald revealed in his document, elaborating that the ADS-B system lacks provisions for conserving these same aircraft-privacy alternatives, and also does not address the potential for spoofing, denial of service, and other clearly-documented risk factors.   

Civil aircraft firms would opt to keep some information private, Ronald writes, for instance, to anticipate tracing executives as part of corporate espionage activities.   

Military aircraft traffic data, in the meantime, is defined by the Defense Department as “data that, if revealed, would uncover vulnerabilities in the DoD vital facility and, if used, would probably lead to pregnant disruption, damage or destruction of or to DoD activities, facilities or holdings.”   

Taking into account the sensitivity of the related air traffic data, the armed-forces need for secrecy is in all likelihood to remain critical in their adoption and exploitation of ADS-B.   

Tackling these issues, the researcher shows a prototype in the document, called the Aviation Blockchain Infrastructure (ABI), which is based on Hyperledger Fabric & smart contracts, and enables control over what info is shared in private or in public with authorities.   

We Go Digital   

For example, aircraft ‘state data’ like altitude, designated airspeed, heading, and others could be kept protected through a private channel, while flight-plan data like aircraft type, filed route, origin, final destination and others can be published on a public platform for access to all sanctioned members.   


Ronald reveals:   

“We suggest to use a ‘lightly permissioned’ DLT framework to enable the ADS-B systems to meet or surpass the same levels of privacy & security currently offered by radar-based systems in the National Airspace System.”   

Remember, this isn’t the first time NASA has delved into DLT for technological enhancements. In February 2018, it granted around
$330,000 to a certain professor from the University of Akron (UA), to underprop research on Ethereum DLT to mechanically and automatically discover floating debris.   

In December 2018, the DLT development company Blockstream also revealed its plans to expand its satellite service with the 5th satellite and is currently broadcasting Bitcoin DLT to every Earth’s significant landmasses, Forbes
reported Dec. 17. 

As Coinidol
reported in April last year, NASA in collaboration with researchers from UA in Ohio, USA, started a new research program to thoroughly investigate potential practical application of ETH-based DLT for space communication and navigation.

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