Blockchain and drones: how will we control the new highways of the skies above us as small planes fill the space above our cities?
Blockchain is a new industry. And yet, there are systems designed around it that are even newer. And this concept is part of it. For those of us who have children, we are told to prepare them for jobs that don’t yet exist. So read on.
It has been predicted that within a few years, drones will be above us all the time. They will operate in an underlayer of the sky, below the paths of commercial flights and military jets. But their flight paths will need to be coordinated. This is so that they do not collide when delivering goods, transport people, and inspect things like wind turbines and bridges. No one needs to be hosed down by smashing drones, thank you.
An air traffic control sublayer was designed to solve this problem. It will work using both distributed ledger technology (DLT), blockchain, and automation. Research around this new underlay for the aeronautical industry is already well advanced. The idea is to improve safety, cybersecurity and interoperability.
Cranfield researchers are part of this project. They say the system will integrate an ecosystem of manned and unmanned aircraft across UK skies.
These researchers claim that unmanned aerial vehicles are already bringing benefits to humans. The given examples solve medical logistics problems in isolated areasand inspect hard-to-reach infrastructure, such as high masts.
Researchers say a new air traffic management system will “open up a new era of business opportunities for the aviation sector, as well as drone-enhanced public services: urban air taxis, cargo and delivery services. , Security operations, health care support and environmental monitoring.
According PWC and UKRI, a new industry around unmanned and autonomous aviation will bring around £42 billion to the UK economy by 2030. This is due to new jobs, cost savings and productivity gains. Once this new industry is established, a hybrid airspace should be in place from around 2024.
Blockchain – Increasing Transparency and Trust
This future – of an unmanned aircraft using blockchain-like technology to solve logistical problems – is being developed by a collaboration of 13 consortium partners, including Cranfield, the University of Oxford, London Airport, ‘Heathrow, AGI, NATand SITA. Some UK-based startups are also part of the mix.
As the drones fly overhead, the system will allow thousands of independent computers to share historical data – of who did what and when. According to Cranfield, “The system includes ‘smart contracts’, controls over user actions backed by coded security. Artificial intelligence will improve cybersecurity measures for DLTs, enabling constant real-time data collection, processing and authorization during operations.
Automation and autonomy will unlock huge benefits
Dr. Dimitrios Panagiotakopoulos is a Lecturer in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management at Cranfield. “Traditional ATM human operators are already faced with high workloads and a deluge of data from various information, flight planning, radar and weather systems. The current approach is not not scalable to meet the needs of a more complex and demanding hybrid airspace of manned and unmanned traffic.To access the enormous potential benefits of a new type of airspace, there must be more automation and autonomy – but that can only happen with watertight systems and a shared sense of trust.
Yann Cabaret is the CEO of SITA. “Similar to the wider airline industry, the successful introduction of unmanned aircraft systems will rely heavily on secure data exchange between operators, airports and air traffic management. Through this partnership research, we are confident that the use 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 in aircraft parts tracking for airport operational data sharing is a natural extension of this work.
Urban Test Scenarios
So far, we’ve established that most city dwellers can expect to see a variety of drones in the airspace above them, and soon. These drones will take people to hospitals, put out fires or deliver packages.
According Urban Air Mobility (UAM))“Just like the air traffic management system for general aircraft, [this] will ensure that drone operations are carried out in a safe and efficient manner. 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 and one that will pave the way for freeways in the sky, removing traffic and congestion and changing the way we get around.”
Let’s observe this space, and don’t forget to look up.
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