It’s easy for operators to get away with flying drones illegally. A majority of the time it’s unintentional—drones flying too close to wildfires or airplanes are reported almost daily. Sadly it doesn’t always end with close calls. Drones can do real damage: they have crashed into power lines, buildings, and even recently, into a baby.
Despite an obvious need, there’s still no mechanism to identify drone operators and hold them accountable.
We’ve adopted similar systems for other vehicles. Cars are issued license plates that can be used in identifying a driver. By 2020 all aircraft will be required to beacon a unique identifier during flight to aid air safety and efficiency.
And yet for drones, which have both a lower cost of entry and a greater potential for harm than either cars or airplanes, there is only a voluntary program for self-identification. The drone airspace is currently like commercial flight before the FAA was established in 1958, but if jets cost a few hundred bucks and could be purchased at the local department store.
A low barrier of entry combined with a lack of identity management makes for unsafe skies.
Drones are not a fad, and their increasing number and diversity are poised to both enhance and, if we’re not careful, complicate nearly all aspects of our lives. With the advent of the era of autonomous and unmanned drones comes the need for a standardized, cryptographically-secure remote drone identification (Remote ID) system.
So, WhiteFox has invented one that’s secure, trustworthy, and easily deployed.
We’re not alone in identifying this problem. Major players in both the technology and aviation industries are developing protocols for Remote ID. However, no other publicly available Remote ID system provides the same necessary level of security as ours—specifically, they allow any drone to broadcast any identity.
Consider someone who wants to fly a drone carrying explosives into a football stadium full of thousands of families. If the counter-drone system works with a trusted Remote ID that guarantees each drone is transmitting their true identity, then no illegal UAV will slip pass.
But, if the stadium employs a Remote ID security where the identity of a drone can easily be impersonated, then the outcome will be fatal.
This is why security is an essential element of any Remote ID proposal.
Digital identity is not a new problem. In order to achieve standard definition of security, a system must achieve three things:
- First, the identity for a drone should be issued from a trusted authority, like the DMV does for cars.
- Second, those identities must be unforgeable (meaning you can’t trick the system into believing you’re someone you’re not).
- And third, the protocol should be fresh, which in cryptographic terms means operators aren’t able to transmit old data as new.
In the physical world, we can achieve these three qualities by making the cost to reproduce, and the penalties for forging an identity very high. Few people have the means or the desire to stamp their own license plates for just these reasons.
But when identities are stored and transmitted digitally, the same physical limitations don’t apply. The good news is modern cryptography can provide effectively the same barriers for impersonation.
Even with the world’s fastest supercomputer, forging an identity using our system would be very challenging.
If we don’t implement drone Remote ID, the privacy and safety of the public will continue to be compromised.
Technology keeps advancing above us.
WhiteFox is innovating the security to match it.