SkyGrid whitepaper looks to blockchain technology to support safe operation of unmanned vehicles at scale

A whitepaper released by drone service provider SkyGrid says blockchain technology can help ensure the traceability and accountability of drones at scale. According to the company, blockchain technology can provide the equivalent of “a tamper-proof digital black block”.

SkyGrid identifies key challenges to keeping the skies safe and provide drone operators with equitable airspace access, particularly in high-risk areas near airports and urban environments.

The first challenge is real-time awareness of all current and planned unmanned flights. This requires drone operators to share a detailed record of their intended flight paths, position tracks, flight status, and any route changes during flight. These details must be accurate and up to date to optimize the airspace and pre-empt unnecessary deconfliction with other aircraft. However, this process becomes increasingly difficult as businesses autonomously operate a larger volume of drones to deliver packages, survey pipelines, monitor crops, and more.

The second challenge is flight auditability. The industry needs assurance of the security and integrity of data exchanged between drone operators, authorities, and service suppliers. Manned aviation relies on technology such as radar and black box recorders to meet these requirements.

SkyGrid argues blockchain technology offers a solution for the unmanned sector.

According to the company, “blockchain provides a distributed ledger of immutable records stored in a decentralized database. this technology can simplify the process of sharing accurate, up-to-date flight data with authorities by assigning a unique ID to every unmanned aircraft and maintaining a real-time record of each drone’s status, flight details (e.g., altitude, coordinates), operator, and maintenance history.

“This approach enables a common operating picture recorded securely, accurately, and permanently on a digital ledger. In a blockchain, each flight log is linked to the previous log with cryptography so they can’t be altered retroactively. That means authorities can analyse flight data in the wake of an incident and hold operators accountable with certainty the data hasn’t been tampered with.

“The use of private keys ensures only authorized parties have access to confidential data, such as flight plans, operator details, and payload information. This gives businesses assurances their operational data won’t be accessed or intercepted by a malicious actor.

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