How blockchain could unlock the potential of unmanned aviation
SkyGrid, a drone software company owned by Boeing and AI company SparkCognition, has released a report on “The Power of Blockchain in Unmanned Aviation.” It examines the advantages of blockchain for drone technology and outlines practical examples.
Drones have conferred the potential to transform industries, automate tasks, and uncover new data sets. Demand for them is already booming, and it is predicted that by 2023 commercial drone shipments will hit 2.9 million units, according to Frost & Sullivan.
Nevertheless, the two trials that caution restricting their potential are public safety and airspace authorities’ capability to manage the growth. SkyGrid makes the case that what is required to address both issues is a “new airspace system” that will “remove the burden on operators and authorities by enabling more autonomous workflows.”
Blockchain benefits for drones
In congested airspace, every drone must certainly supply real-time data on its whereabouts, flight path, and any planned changes. While previously responsible for this would fall on the drone operators themselves, blockchain offers an alternative solution. Utilizing a unique ID for every crewless aircraft, blockchain can keep a “real-time record” of its position and movements, operator, and maintenance history. The application of smart contracts by blockchain could automate compliance of unmanned aircraft with regulations. This system could define human error by reducing flights above 400 feet or circumventing a set radius around an airport.
Drone maintenance and faults could be logged on a blockchain. After a fault is detected, a smart contract would need a sign-off from a technician’s private key before the drone is allowed to fly again. Blockchain offers a more comprehensive systemwide audit in case of an incident. With a decentralized blockchain, the flight records are harder to tamper with, and various blockchain nodes provide data redundancy.
To limit access, SkyGrid recommends a private consortium ledger so that only those with proper permissions can access confidential data like flight plans and operator details. Ultimately, blockchain can check the number of paper documents adopted in aviation today, as a permanent and accessible record is stored on the ledger.
Blockchain use cases for commercial drones
Package delivery is one of the most significant opportunities for drone technology, with tests for grocery delivery and pharmaceuticals already piloted. Regulators could apply blockchain to ensure that companies carrying hazardous goods keep drones from populated areas like airports, stadiums, or busy highways.
Blockchain can also enhance industrial inspections and surveillance utilizing drones. Farmers, building companies, and oil companies operate drones to inspect crops, building sites, and rigs. In the case of an oil rig or construction site incident, a blockchain platform could offer a record of the latest inspection.
Blockchain can help drones offer emergency medical supplies for two reasons. Given how important it is that drones that give emergency supplies are completely functioning, smart contracts can be utilized to mandate system checks every few flight hours.
SkyGrid also recommends that blockchain private keys be utilized to encrypt personal data like blood type relevant for organ transport through drones. However, we’d wonder whether such details wouldn’t more appropriately be stored in a healthcare platform. Meantime, seven months ago, SkyGrid obtained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a supplier of drone flight information and permissions.
The firm has produced its AerialOS platform to monitor airspace and enforce compliance. Although it’s not the only organization investigating blockchain for air traffic, NASA issued a paper about a blockchain prototype for air traffic data a year ago. And the US Airforce is examining blockchain for a wide diversity of applications.