“The design innovation is the use of an open source permissioned blockchain framework to enable aircraft privacy and anonymity while providing a secure and efficient method for communication with Air Traffic Services, Operations Support, or other authorized entities”– NASA Engineer Ronald Reisman
One of NASA’s leading experts, Ronald Reisman has published an engineering prototype, showing how and why blockchain could be the solution to pressing concerns over flight information privacy. Introduction of the new Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system, is scheduled to be implemented across all aircraft (including military) in the National Airspace System by 2020 (US). However, Reisman is expressing concerns over the privacy of flight data, the potential for spoofing and the threat of a “denial of service” cyber attack.
ADS-B is a form of flight surveillance technology which works by a flight determining its position through satellite navigation. The aircraft will then broadcast its position, allowing flights to be tracked via air traffic control receivers on the ground and by other pilots. The technology allows aircraft to operate more safely and efficiently as pilots will be able to determine flight data from other planes directly, granting them greater situational awareness.
“The system proposes to leverage an industrial-strength open-source enterprise-blockchain framework called Hyperledger Fabric to demonstrate potential solutions to vexing technical issues that threaten the adoption of ADS-B by Military, Corporate, and other aircraft operators who do not want their operations and movements discernible by the general public.”
The “Hyperledger Fabric” differs from fintech blockchains in that it is capable of enterprise application similar to that of air traffic management scenarios.
Although the ADS-B system presents significant benefits to US aviation, even greater threats are presented through its implementation. The flight data which is transmitted is potentially vulnerable and must be protected in many cases. Reisman suggests an open-source, permissioned blockchain is the key to solving the currently imperfect ADS-B technology. Although the technology is “not yet perfected” it is certainly a possibility as “it is based on available technology”.
Above, is Reisman’s proposed blockchain structure to be implemented into the US ADS-B system. The Blockchain would allow sensitive information to be withheld from the public. Most notably advantageous in a military context, the system allows for cryptographically verified signatures of people’s identities. Further, the blockchain will still allow critical data to be shared to relevant parties thus solving the original issues presented by the ADS-B system.