NASA Proposal: Air Traffic Management via Blockchain

Given the popularity gained by the blockchain technology in the financial sector, it is seeing a wide range of applications in other industries as well. The space industry has recently started realizing the potential of the blockchain.

NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has proposed a paper to examine blockchain and smart contracts technology from Hyperledger Fabric open-source software as a means to ensure the privacy and security of aircraft flight data.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, the U.S. has been mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use a new surveillance system – Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) – which will publicly broadcast aircrafts’ identity, position and other information.

Ronald Reisman, an aero-computer engineer at NASA Ames Research Center explained in his paper:

“The ADS-B system does not include provisions for maintaining these same aircraft-privacy options, nor does it address the potential for spoofing, denial of service, and other well-documented risk factors.”

And also added:

“We propose to use a ‘lightly permissioned’ blockchain framework to enable the ADS-B systems to meet or exceed the same levels of privacy and security currently provided by radar-based systems in the NAS [National Airspace System].”

The proposed system would employ an open-source permissioned blockchain to enable secure, private and anonymous communication with air traffic services. According to the proposal, enterprise blockchain solutions could be a practical PKI for aircraft applications. The document states:

“A virtue of theses blockchain schemas is that they enable implementation of a PKI infrastructure in which end users are not required to belong to any single organization, or adhere 6 to any single client/server protocol.”

The researchers note that implementing cryptography has been proposed in order to address both the privacy issues and spoofing. Furthermore, the proposal explains the difficulties of such solutions:

“An outstanding issue in most of these PKI [Public Key Infrastructure] schemes is the difficulty of implementing the public key framework in a manner that can be utilized by aircraft in flight.”

However, This is not the first time that the NASA has set out to explore blockchain seeking technological improvements. Back in February, the agency granted $330,000 to a professor at the University of Akron, to support research on ethereum blockchain technology to automatically detect floating debris.

Link to the original news article can be found here.

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