Challenges for Secure and Trustworthy UAS Collaboration

Challenges for Secure and Trustworthy UAS Collaboration

Unoccupied aerial systems (UASs) are receiving growing attention. Thanks to their affordability, their use has been proposed in many domains, including agriculture, oil, gas, electricity utilities, safety, disaster management, and goods transportation.

This increased popularity brings new challenges for air traffic management (ATM) and air traffic control (ATC), which are already operating near or at capacity. To cope with this limitation is emerging the idea of having UASs that directly collaborate to perform joint actions (e.g., collision avoidance, path planning) without centralized airspace management.

However, supporting an efficient and safe collaboration among UASs is a complex process that requires addressing several challenges. First, UASs have to detect oncoming vehicles, even if not equipped with transponders. They have, then, to establish a secure communication channel. Finally, they have to determine the level of interactions and actions that can be safely done with unknown UASs.

This last step is particularly critical. In general, the type of interaction among parties depends on their trust relationship. This also holds in the UAS scenario, where trust assessment can be used to determine the operations a vehicle is authorized to do. However, UASs pose new challenges with respect to more traditional scenarios. For example, if we consider a standard IT communication, untrustworthy partners are simply excluded from the communication. However, this is not an option in aviation. To avoid coming into conflict with each other (e.g., avoid collision), we need to communicate even with untrustworthy or partially trustworthy vehicles.

To cope with this highly dynamic environment, the CONCORDIA project envisages the need for an approach that can dynamically manage and adapt the level of UASs collaboration based on vehicles’ trustworthiness.

As a first step in this direction, in collaboration with AIRBUS and Università degli Studi di Milano, we have jointly worked to identify gaps, challenges, and approaches to deploy trustworthy coalitions and collaborations in UASs. Specifically, we are looking at integrating access control policies and trust assessment, assurance monitoring and adaptation in a coherent approach. The first result of this joint effort has been presented at the second IEEE International Conference on Trust, Privacy and Security in Intelligent Systems, and Applications, 1-3 December 2020. The paper has identified a roadmap of actions and challenges to be addressed to support UASs coalition. Under the CONCORDIA framework, the collaboration wth AIRBUS and Università degli Studi di Milano continues to investigate how integrating access control policies and trust assessment, assurance monitoring, and adaptation in a coherent approach.

(By Barbara Carminati, Università degli Studi dell’Insubria)