الدكتور راي جونسون
الرئيس التنفيذي لـ"ASPIRE"
Dr. Ray O. Johnson
CEO, ASPIRE

We must protect the drone from cyberthreats as it spreads wings

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Drones have become ubiquitous. They are in the news and in the shop, while they are used both by industry and consumers in the skies all over the world. As the world progresses, the unmanned aircraft will become the key to maintaining efficiency of various businesses and government organisations, while enabling many of them to improve areas that are either lagging or stagnant. From quick and timely deliveries at rush hour to scanning impenetrable areas in land and sea, drones are proving to be beneficial in many ways.

They are increasing work efficiency and productivity, reducing workload and production costs, improving accuracy, refining service and customer relations, and resolving security issues. Hence the adoption of drone technology across industries is no longer just trendy; it is essential.

That is why ASPIRE, one of the arms of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), has launched the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge, calling on innovators from around the world to join an effort to develop a fully autonomous maritime drone. Such a machine will not just eliminate the risks for humans in covering vast areas of ocean to maintain maritime safety and security, but it will do the work with more precision and swiftness, all at the fraction of a cost. Eventually, this technology can be used in search and rescue operations.

However, like any computing device, there are various cybersecurity concerns with drones. A malicious aggressor could possibly attack drones via diverse methods to gain access to the drone, the information that it is collecting, or that the drone contains.

We were keenly aware of this issue, which is one of the reasons that Technology Innovation Institute (TII), the research and development arm of ATRC, established the Secure Systems Research Center, which is dedicated to the development of end-to-end security and resilience for cyber-physical and autonomous systems. Providing security requires a multidisciplinary approach that combines domain knowledge with security and resilience technologies, delivering breakthroughs in applied research that will ensure safety and enrich lives in the UAE and worldwide.

Through approaches such as mesh networks, the Center is working to improve the resilience of drones and other cyber-physical and autonomous systems.

We know that an invention of an autonomous system will be worthwhile only after ensuring the safety of its use. This is the mission we will have to accomplish before the drone become autonomous and as commonplace as the smartphone, if current trends are any indication.

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