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This unmanned helicopter is designed to feature protection from hacking.
Boeing is set to replace 100,000 lines of code on its Little Bird drone before a test flight this summer. An un-hackable Boeing Little Bird unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) should be in flight around the end of 2017. This, according to both Defense Department and company officials.
An impregnable commercial quadcopter drone was successfully flown last May using the same type of technology. “The intent is to conduct an experiment to prove that these new coding techniques can create secure code at full scale,” said John Launchbury, who leads the program for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).
According to Defense One, the concept – while not new – is becoming more vital as more computers are embedded into systems that carry precious cargo.
“Cyberattacks on your PC — they can steal information and they can steal money, but they don’t cause physical damage, whereas cyberattacks in a UAV or a car can cause physical damage and we really don’t want to open that can of worms,” said Kathleen Fisher, the previous program manager of the DARPA project. The initiative, which was launched in 2012, is called High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems.
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In addition to Boeing, National ICT Australia, avionics company Rockwell Collins and computer science firm Galois are also working on the secure software.
According to Fisher, hypothetically speaking, the worst-case scenario would be having an adversary like the Islamic State take command of a weaponized UAV and direct it to fire on a friendly target. Another scenario could prove potentially even worse: a rogue actor substitutes a surveillance video showing U.S. allied forces with video showing ISIL activity so the decision-maker on base unknowingly fires at the allies.
“Boeing is on track to replace all the code on the vehicle by the end of the program,” Launchbury said, which lasts for 4.5 years. This particular Little Bird does not carry any weapons systems, he said.
The software will isolate all communications between the ground station and the aircraft from the outside world, according to program participants. “Its main purpose is to rewrite and secure the mission computer on board the Little Bird,” Launchbury said.
Close to 100,000 lines of code – or 70 percent of the mission computer’s code – will have been replaced in time for a planned flight this summer, he said. By comparison, modern cars require around 100 million lines of code to get out of the garage.