National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA published a proposal on January 10, that talks about the idea of using blockchain for air traffic management. For the purpose, blockchain technology developed by Hyperledger Fabric was deemed most suitable.
The paper named, “Air Traffic Management Blockchain Infrastructure for Security, Authentication, and Privacy” says that the current air traffic management system maintains its privacy and security by “procedurally preventing public release of selected flight plans, position, and state data.” With the upcoming US’ national adoption of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) System by 2020, although may be better, but incorporating the same security measures may not exactly be possible; moreover, ADS, does not adhere to “potential for spoofing, denial of service, and other well-documented risk factors,” leaving it bare when it comes to high-level privacy and security.
Unfortunately, many other papers have been submitted to stakeholders that suggest solutions to this issue, but all of them have been rejected. Now NASA is looking over the potential of the blockchain technology to resolve the matter. Specifically, the paper 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, sharing data in accordance with the terms specified in the form of smart contracts.”
The blockchain will be used to optimize the ADS security system by a blockchain PKI for aviation surveillance application. The paper states Hyperledger Fabric as the most suitable for the purpose. According to the paper, Hyperledger is distinct form other token-based blockchains. It has some features like the provision of “private channels” which allow private communication at a higher bandwidth. Similarly, the feature of smart contracts plays well for the ADS’ privacy and security. The paper states:
These private channels may be used to pass a private key (or time-key data structure) suitable for encrypting ADS-B Out transmissions between any specific aircraft and any particular authorized member in accordance with the terms of the smart contracts associated with the particular private channel (and subnet). The use of cyphertext enables ADS-B users to maintain privacy and anonymity from general public while also providing a secure and efficient method for communication with authorized entities, such as Air Traffic Services or Airline Operations Services.”
NASA’s attempts to promote research and use blockchain have also been seen before. NASA has been in the play since 2017 when it awarded a $330,000 grant that supported the development of an autonomous, blockchain-based spacecraft system.