In a bid to fix the privacy loopholes inherent in the proposed Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system scheduled to get integrated by 2020, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is looking to adopt distributed ledger technology (DLT), according to a paper published on January 7, 2019.
The NASA Blockchain Push
As stated in the document, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made it clear that the U.S. aviation branch must start using the ADS-B by 2020, as the system is a cost-effective alternative to the current RADAR system and it also provides improved situational awareness in both local and international airspace.
However, despite the numerous benefits that come with the ADS-B, Ronald Reisman, an Aero Computer Engineer at the Flight Trajectory Dynamics and Controls Branch at NASA, notes that the system has many significant vulnerabilities including susceptibility to spoofing, denial of service (DoS), and other attacks.
Specifically, Reisman explained that while there have been many proposals aimed at making the ADS-B system more secure, stakeholders in the industry, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), are yet to approve any particular plan to fix the serious issue.
Against that backdrop, Reisman has introduced a blockchain-based permissioned framework focused on “enabling aircraft privacy and anonymity while fostering secure and efficient [methods] for communication with Air Traffic Services and other [authorized] parties.”
Dubbed Aviation Blockchain Infrastructure (ABI), the system is powered by the Linux Hyperledger Fabric and smart contracts, and it comes with a state channel that gives users absolute control over the data to be shared publicly or privately among authorized entities. Reisman said:
“Channels are used for conducting confidential transactions. For instance, sensitive details such as altitude, latitude, longitude and others, may be kept secure through a private channel, while the public aspects of the flight may be published on a channel open to all approved users.”
A Long Time Coming
Although it is yet to be seen whether NASA will integrate Reisman’s blockchain solution into their ADS-B system, it is, however, worth noting that the agency has shown a liberal stance towards the burgeoning technology in recent times.
In January 2018, BTCManager informed that NASA had awarded University of Akron Assistant Professor, Jin Wei Kocsis, a grant of $333,000 to develop a blockchain and AI-powered system that will enable satellites to safely travel deeper into space and make accurate and independent decisions in real time.