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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: November 2017

7 - Safety, Security, and Privacy Aspects in UAV Networks



As the airspace is being opened up for UAS, the UAS market is expected to see a tremendous growth over the next two decades. One projection is that by 2035, there may be as many as 250,000 UAVs including commercial, public, state, and federally owned UAVs operating in the airspace providing various kinds of services in the United States alone [321]. Inclusion of such a large number of UAVs in the airspace creates many challenges in terms of safety, security, and privacy, which are the three dimensions for integrating UAVs in the airspace and for designing real-world applications. The three factors are not completely independent of each other as one factor influences the other two.

Safety of human lives, undoubtedly, is the most critical aspect for any manned or unmanned aircraft. Safety is achieved through advances in aviation technology and statutory regulations that will help to prevent potential collisions in midair or on the ground. Factors that influence decisions related to safety include price, performance, payload, and power needs among others. Trade-offs among these factors need to be carefully considered while making statutory regulations. For example, the type of collision avoidance technology that should be made mandatory through the federal regulation for aircraft should take into account the impact of the choice on the performance of the aircraft.

Information security is critical in the sense that revealing essential flight information to hackers may jeopardize the safety of the aircraft and people on the ground. Thus, information security is not independent of safety. For example, hackers can fabricate messages impersonating or spoofing a plane, creating ghost planes in the air. Information security measures are needed to distinguish false messages from true messages intended for safety and situational awareness. Similarly, measures for aviation security may have an impact on the privacy of citizens as our experiences at airports demonstrate. While citizens may accept to forego a certain amount of comfort for security, any measures that cause privacy concerns should be minimized.

In the light of UAV integration into airspace, information security and privacy issues that surround the use of UAVs are being re-investigated. Legal definitions of individuals’ privacy and information security are being re-examined in order to understand the trade-offs between the two.

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