US Department of Transportation Says Blockchain Has Many Applications For Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones)

Blockchain technology could assist with adjusting and improving current technical challenges in the expanding business of commercial drone delivery, said the US Department of Transport (DOT).

Distributed ledger technology could see utilization in different sectors, from security and identification to flight data recording.

Commercial Drones: Growth And Challenges

According to a research paper from the US Department of Transport, the estimated number of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) was roughly 1.1 million in 2017. A projection on the matter predicts that the number will rise with 50% by 2024.

Daily applications include carrying medicine and organs for transplant, making consumer deliveries, and even operating flamethrowers and machine guns.

According to Jay Merkle, Director of the Federal Aviation Administration UAS Integration Office, there are “nearly four times as many UAS as registered manned aircraft.”

Despite their growth in the past several years, the DOT outlined several potential issues with the current operational systems. Per the report, “the integrity and compliance of any UAS swarm can pose challenges to bystanders, infrastructure, and controllers.”

Being unmanned is a significant benefit in some circumstances, but it also raises additional trust concerns.

Enter Blockchain Solutions

Blockchain has already addressed some UAS trust and integrity issues, the report informed. Future employments include flight data recorders (black boxes). However, instead of investigating data following an incident or other event, blockchain-based flight recorders could be examined in real-time, allowing law enforcement agencies to be proactive.

During delivery operations, a DLT-based repository could log information about processes such as time, location, delivery date, and resources. Thus, it could make the data accessible to authenticated users and stakeholders again in real-time.

The tech giant IBM has obtained a patent allowing blockchain utilization for drone fleet security. By storing data associated with UAS flights, the DLT ledger would ensure air traffic controllers supervise the ever-increasing number of drones.

“Blockchain is poised to transform the way we think about and analyze safety data. This is particularly exciting for unmanned aerial vehicles. Blockchain can be a part of the solution to collecting and sharing reliable data about drones.

When you combine machine learning with the data blockchain can provide on UAS registration, accountability, and tracking, an entire world becomes available for drone safety analysis, decision making, and even regulation.” – said Regina Houston, Chief of the Aviation Safety Management Systems Division at US DOT.

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