Blockchain Will Coordinate Airspace So Delivery Drones Don’t Crash – BeInCrypto | Hot Mobile Press

Blockchain and Drones: How will we control the new highways of the skies overhead as small airplanes fill the space above our cities?

Blockchain is a new industry. And yet systems are being designed around them that are even newer. And this concept is one of them. For those of us with children, we are told to prepare them for jobs that don’t already exist. So read on.

It has been predicted that in a few years, drones will be all over us all the time. They will operate in a lower layer of the sky, beneath commercial flight paths and military jets. But their flight routes must be coordinated. So they don’t collide while delivering cargo, moving people, and inspecting things like wind turbines and bridges. No one needs to be rained down by smashed drones, thanks.

To address this, an air traffic control sub-layer was conceived. It will work with distributed ledger technology (DLT), blockchain as well as automation. The research surrounding this new underclass in the aviation industry is already in full swing. The idea is to improve security, cybersecurity and interoperability.

Cranfield researchers are part of this project. They say the system will integrate an ecosystem of manned and unmanned aircraft into the UK skies.

Air taxi drones in urban airspace. Credit: AMU-LED Consortium

Unmanned drones

These researchers say unmanned aerial vehicles are already bringing benefits to people. Examples of this are solving medical and logistical problems in remote areas and inspecting infrastructure that is difficult to access, such as high masts.

Researchers say a new air traffic management system will “open a new era of commercial opportunities for the aviation sector, as well as drone-enhanced public services: urban air taxis, cargo and delivery services, security operations, health care, and environmental monitoring.”

A new industry centered around unmanned and autonomous aviation is estimated to be worth £42bn to the UK economy by 2030, according to PWC and UKRI. This is thanks to new jobs, cost savings and productivity gains. Once this new industry is established, hybrid airspace is expected to be in place from around 2024.

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Blockchain – increasing transparency and trust

This future – of an unmanned aircraft that uses blockchain technology to solve logistical problems – is being worked on in collaboration with 13 consortium partners including Cranfield, Oxford University, Heathrow Airport, IAG, NATS and SITA. Also in the mix are a few UK-based startups.

As drones fly overhead, the system will allow thousands of independent computers to share data history – who did what and when. According to Cranfield, “The system includes ‘smart contracts’, controls over user actions backed by encrypted security. Artificial intelligence will enhance cybersecurity measures for the DLTs, enabling constant, real-time data collection, processing and authorization during operations.”

Automation and autonomy will unlock tremendous benefits

dr Dimitrios Panagiotakopoulos is a Lecturer in Traffic Management of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Cranfield. “Human operators in traditional ATMs are already faced with heavy workloads and a deluge of data from various information systems, flight planning, radar and weather. The current approach is not scalable to meet the needs of a more complex and demanding hybrid airspace with manned and unmanned traffic. To realize the huge potential benefits of a new type of airspace, there needs to be more automation and autonomy – but that can only happen with watertight systems and a shared sense of trust.”

dr Dimitrios Panagiotakopoulos, Lecturer in Traffic Management of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Cranfield University

Yann Cabaret is the CEO of SITA. “Similar to the aviation industry as a whole, the successful deployment of unmanned aircraft systems will depend heavily on the secure exchange of data between operators, airports and air traffic management. Through this research partnership, we are confident that the deployment of DLTs will improve the flow of actionable data between transport stakeholders to support the efficient and safe operation of unmanned aircraft in the future. At SITA, we have already demonstrated the benefits of DLT from tracking aircraft parts to exchanging operational data at the airport. This is a natural extension of this work.”

Test scenarios in urban environments

So far we’ve found that most people who live in cities can expect to see a multitude of drones in the airspace overhead, and soon. These drones will take people to hospitals, put out fires or deliver packages.

According to Urban Air Mobility (UAM), “just like the air traffic management system for general aircraft, [this] will ensure that drone operations are carried out safely and efficiently. The system is more automated than current air traffic control, with less human interaction and the ability to handle more flights simultaneously.”

Gokhan Inalhan is Professor of Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence at Cranfield. “This is a very exciting project that will pave the way for highways into the sky, eliminating traffic and congestion and changing the way we get around.”

Let’s observe this space and remember to look up.

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