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Secure GPS navigation system for the next generation Robotic Drone Aircraft

by Rusti 2012-01-05 13:14


Drone stealth mainstay fighter and surveillance robotic aircraft have a proven combat record, stealthy robotic aircraft are useful for flying undetected in the airspace at security boundaries patrol missions guided by high precision GPS navigation autopilot systems. The United States has carried out an extensive strategic defense and threat isolation campaigns using the Predator and larger Reaper drones. Robotic unmanned aircraft systems in the air and on the ground are now deployed by the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the most advanced models, the The Sentinel RQ-170, an unarmed long-range surveillance drone known as The Beast of Kandahar, was such a closely held secret that the U.S. Air Force did not even acknowledge its existence until recent events. The Sentinel has a flying wing design with no tail and with sensors built into the top side of each wing, with an open array radar-evading stealth features. The RQ-170 has been designed in line with defense request for more intelligence and surveillance resources and with the Air Force plans to expand the fleet of unmanned robotic aircraft.

Stealth unmanned autonomous vehicle, the UAV

The RQ-170 Sentinel is capable to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward deployed combat forces. As North Korea and China are introducing their own stealth unmanned aircraft technologies, and Iranian hackers are trying to find flaws in drone stealth aircraft course control system to intercept the communications, the US engineers are working on adjustments to a changing security environment to protect the GPS navigation and autopilot flight control system of the drone aircraft. The U.S. military experts are testing the communication and flight control systems to avoid security flaws possibly allowing Iran to intercept the video autopilot and GPS navigation flight assist systems. The team of Iran-based interception specialists hacked into a U.S. spy drone's GPS navigator communications channel in order to disable the real time GPS navigation features of the flight control system and capture the drone vehicle. The drone has landed in Iran's territory due to a malfunction according to the reports. The Iranian interception attempt of the robotic unmanned aircraft may become possible as hackers figured out one of the RQ-170 Sentinel's weak points in its GPS navigation systems by examining previously downed drone aircraft.   

Stealth drone communication systemUsing this knowledge, they designed a trap for one of the RQ-170 drones doing reconnaissance work in the country. By putting jamming noise on the GPS communication, the jamming transmitter forced the drone aircraft to switch into backup autopilot mode. Autopilot system uses wide variety of sensor arrays including video cameras, laser, infrared and ultrasonic subsystems as well as efficient quad helix antennas and GPS enabled course compass units, all integrated into a unified onboard flight control platform. Working together the integrated autopilot and flight control platform is capable of maintaining the highest precision and accuracy of unmanned aircraft location, course navigation, source and destination information. Once the GPS component of the system is compromised the critical real time positioning information is missing from the equation. At this point the drone vehicle loses the ability to instantly check its longitude, latitude and elevation with the GPS satellite constellation. Left on its own the drone becomes vulnerable for the further hacker attack. There were cases in the past when videos sent by stealth drones to their ground control stations were intercepted by Iraqi insurgent. 

GPS III secure systemThe attackers use a variety of hacking techniques to intercept, modify and re-inject data packets into the vehicle remote control communications system channels. Once the the bird loses its brain the modified data in the drone's autopilot and flight control system is used to program the flying vehicle land on its own where the intruders wanted it to. The attack could be ultimately successful, leading the unmanned vehicle to land in Iran instead of its home base in Afghanistan. With security strategy of foremost importance the U.S. military experts perform extended study of indications on potential GPS navigation and autopilot flight control systems vulnerability. Most sophisticated encryption methods will be applied to protect video streaming information sent by stealth drones to their ground control stations along with efficient methods of preventing penetration of virus infection into the computer systems which support the fleet of unmanned vehicles. The new GPS III highly secure global positioning system is in works. When fully deployed, the GPS-III satellites will feature a new secure GPS signals along with a cross-linked command and control architecture. The entire GPS constellation will provide secure positioning information to ground stations and robotic drone aircraft. The new GPS III spot beam antennas have high resistance to hostile military jamming while improving accuracy and integrity of the GPS navigation signals.

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