The technology giant IBM intends to patent a blockchain drone security solution. They had filed the patent application in March 2017. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently published it hence, the application is open for public view.
This proposed blockchain drone security solution is an exciting piece of work in the intersection of two bleeding-edge technologies. The solution could make a big impact in the way drones, or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (UAVs) are commercialized in the near future.
Commercial drones are an increasingly growing market. A Statista report estimates that it will be a US $ 13 billion market by 2025. People world over focus highly on the military-purpose drones, however, the commercial drones also have a wide range of use cases. This ranges from package delivery to emergency medical supplies.
Drones have wide commercial potential, however, they’re not easy to manage. They are often small hence, hard to track. Air traffic controllers don’t have an easy time with them. These may intrude into a predetermined flight path for another aircraft, alternatively, they may fly too close to a high-security area. A TechRepublic report cites several incidents involving drones including one where a drone had crash-landed on the White House lawn!
Air traffic controllers need technology solutions to tackle drones. Such solutions need to provide them with enough information about drones approaching busy flight paths or high-security areas. The information should be sufficiently nuanced.
For example, if a drone takes frequent images near a high-security area, the threat perception if likely high. On the other hand, a drone carrying emergency medical supplies to a natural disaster zone is a different matter. If it’s not taking pictures suspiciously, air traffic controllers should be able to quickly decide to let it fly. The technology solution should provide information at such a granular level.
IBMs’ proposed solution seems to fit the bill. The company in their patent application proposes the blockchain technology for this. A distributed ledger will track the relevant information about drones. This would include the make, model, the declared purpose, etc, however, it would include much more!
The blockchain distributed database will include information about the drones’ camera resolution. The proposed application will track the drones’ movement, for e.g., whether it’s approaching a prohibited flight path or a high-security zone. Each such piece of information will be added to the blockchain database in a chronologically ordered manner.
The proposed blockchain drone security solution also envisages increasing the frequency of adding blocks, i.e. it will record more frequently, based on certain conditions. Take for example the case of a drone with a high-resolution camera where the camera is activated. The system will record its’ movement at a higher frequency if such a drone approaches a high-security zone.
Stakeholders using this solution could vary, besides, it could include air traffic controllers. They can get an early warning for drones that behave suspiciously. On the other hand, they will know if a drone is carrying emergency relief supplies without demonstrating any suspicious activities. They can then let it fly without raising any unnecessary alarm.
Validator nodes in this blockchain can grant special permission to drones that can legitimately fly near certain zones. The patent also proposes using smart contracts that will interface with external systems. These can have insights generated by machine learning models based on past data, for e.g., video streaming data from earlier flights of a drone.
IBM, the over 100-years old technology giant headquartered in Armonk, New York, USA is bullish on the blockchain technology. They are using the technology for recycling work in Haiti, besides, they are also working on a stablecoin. They are also developing robust blockchain-powered supply chain tracking solutions. For e.g., they have worked with Maersk on a shipping supply chain solution, additionally, they have a jewelry supply chain assurance solution.