The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has proposed an air traffic management blockchain, according to a paper published on the agency’s official website on Jan. 10.
The proposed system would employ an open-source permissioned blockchain to enable secure, private and anonymous communication with air traffic services. The document notes:
“This framework features certificate authority, smart contract support, and higher-bandwidth communication channels for private information that may be used for secure communication between any specific aircraft and any particular authorized member.”
The engineering prototype of the system reportedly employed the Hyperledger Fabric and demonstrated that such infrastructure could be rapidly deployed and economically maintained.
In December of last year, Hyperledger — an open source project created by the Linux Foundation and created to support the development of blockchain-based distributed ledgers — onboarded 12 new members, including such major firms as Alibaba Cloud, Citi and Deutsche Telekom.
According to the document, the Automatic Dependent Surveillance System (ADS-B) — which will be mandatory by 2020 — is subject to third-party spoofing as it publicly broadcasts aircraft positions. Spoofing, the researchers explain, is when false aircraft position are reported.
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.”
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.”
In the prototype, the Fabric Certificate Authority is employed for the registration of entities, issuance, renewal and revocation of Enrollment Certificates. Such a system, according to the paper, would “enable ADS-B systems to meet or exceed the same level of privacy and security currently provided by radar-based systems in the NAS.“
In August 2018 in an analysis dedicated to blockchain in space NASA had awarded a $330,000 grant in 2017 that supported the development of an autonomous, blockchain-based spacecraft system, making its first move toward blockchain adoption.
Also, in December of last year, news broke that blockchain development firm Blockstream has expanded its satellite service with the fifth satellite and is now broadcasting the Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain to all of Earth’s major land masses.