Blockchain Will Coordinate Airspace so Delivery Drones Don’t Crash

Blockchain Will Coordinate Airspace so Delivery Drones Don’t Crash

Blockchain and Drones: As small planes fill the space above our cities, how will we control the new highways above us?

Blockchain is an emerging industry. However, some newer systems have been conceived around it. And this concept is one of them. For those of us with children, we’re told to prepare them for jobs that don’t yet exist. So read on.

It is predicted that within a few years, drones will be on top of us all the time. They will operate in the sublayer of the sky below commercial flight paths and military aircraft. But their flight paths require coordination. That way they don’t bump into each other while delivering goods, transporting people, and inspecting things like wind turbines and bridges. No one needs to be rained on by smashing drones, thanks.

A sublayer of air traffic control has been conceived to address this problem. It will use distributed ledger technology (DLT), blockchain and automation simultaneously. Research is already underway around this new sub-layer of aviation. The idea is to improve security, network security and interoperability.


Cranfield researchers are part of the project. They said the system would integrate an ecosystem of manned and unmanned aircraft across the UK’s skies.

Air taxi drone in urban airspace.Image credit: AMU-LED Alliance


These researchers say that unmanned aerial vehicles have already brought benefits to humans. Examples given were addressing medical logistics in remote areas, and inspecting hard-to-reach infrastructure such as tall masts.

According to the researchers, the new air traffic management system will “open up a new era for the aviation industry as well as for drone-enhanced public services: urban air taxis, cargo and delivery services, security operations, healthcare support and environmental monitoring.”

According to PWC and UKRI, new industries around driverless and autonomous aviation will be worth around £42bn to the UK economy by 2030. This is thanks to new jobs, cost savings and increased productivity. Once this new industry is established, a mixed airspace is expected to be established around 2024.


Blockchain – increasing transparency and trust

This future – drones using blockchain-based technology to solve logistical problems – is being developed by 13 consortium partners including Cranfield, Oxford University, Heathrow Airport, IAG, NATS and SITA. There are also some UK start-ups.

As drones fly over us, the system will allow thousands of independent computers to share historical data — who did what and when. “The system includes ‘smart contracts’ that govern user actions backed by coded security,” Cranfield said. AI will enhance distributed ledger technology’s cybersecurity measures, allowing for ongoing real-time data collection, processing and authorization during operations. “

Automation and autonomy will bring huge benefits

Dr Dimitrios Panagiotakopoulos is a Senior Lecturer in Traffic Management for Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Cranfield. “Human operators in traditional ATMs are already faced with high workloads and large amounts of data from disparate information systems, flight plans, radar and weather. Current approaches cannot scale to meet the more complex and demanding mix of manned and unmanned traffic Airspace needs. To reap the huge potential benefits of new types of airspace, there must be more automation and autonomy – but this can only be achieved through waterproofing systems and a shared sense of trust.”

Dr Dimitrios Panagiotakopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Traffic Management for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Cranfield University

Yann Cabaret is the CEO of SITA. “Not unlike the wider air transport industry, the successful introduction of unmanned aircraft systems will depend heavily on the safe exchange of data between operators, airports and air traffic management. Through this research collaboration, we believe The use of DLT will improve the flow of actionable data between transportation stakeholders to support the efficient and safe operation of future drones. At SITA, we have demonstrated the benefits of DLT in tracking aircraft parts to share operational data at airports. This is a natural extension of this work.”

Test scenarios in urban environments

So far, we’ve established that most people living in cities can expect to see drones of all kinds in the airspace above them, and soon. The drones will take people to hospitals, put out fires or deliver packages.

According to Urban Air Mobility (UAM), “Like the air traffic management system for general-purpose aircraft, [this] Will ensure that drone operations are carried out safely and efficiently. The system is more automated than current air traffic control, has less human interaction, and is capable of handling more flights simultaneously. ”

Gokhan Inalhan is Professor of Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence at Cranfield. “This is a very exciting project that will pave the way for a superhighway in the sky, remove traffic and congestion, and change the way we travel.”

Let’s take a look at this space and remember to look up.

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