Lightweight Authentication Protocol for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Cong Pu

Assistant Professor

Marshall University

Department of Computer Sciences and Electrical Engineering

Marshall University, Department of Computer Sciences and Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor, Dr. Cong Pu, received an EPSCoR Research Seed grant for his work entitled “Lightweight Authentication Protocol for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”

With the continuous miniaturization of electronic devices and the recent advancement in wireless communications, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), often referred to as drones, will find many new uses in people’s production and life, bringing great convenience to the public. For over 40 years, drones or similar robots have been a part of NASA’s fleet and range from full-scale solar-powered versions to those using electric motors or propellers. As the proliferation of drones and the flourishing of drone-related applications, Internet of Drones (IoD), a layered network control architecture designed mainly for coordinating the access of drones to controlled airspace, is moving into the fast lane. Meanwhile, the security and privacy of IoD is gaining significant attention due to both financial and strategic information and value involved in aerial applications. Regrettably, traditional secure communication protocols and techniques cannot be directly adopted for IoD systems because of the intrinsic resource constraints of drones and the open nature of wireless communication medium.

Marshall University undergraduate student Andrew Wall is implementing the security protocol in the Drone Laboratory that is directed by Dr. Cong Pu (Dept. of CS, Marshall University), a recipient of a NASA West Virginia EPSCoR Research Seed Grant.

The main objective of this project is to develop a lightweight mutual authentication protocol to secure communications between UAVs and ground station in the IoD environment. The core scientific contributions of this research effort will be the design and implementation of a lightweight security protocol for IoD environment. We focus on unique constraints of drones, such as processing power, memory, and energy, as well as potential extensibility and flexibility of security protocol which is important for easy integration with communication protocols. This research will also have important implications for other cryptographic systems in robotics and will provide design considerations to the broader cryptographic and robotics community seeking new research directions.

Developed drone platform with DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone, ADALM Pluto Software Defined Radio, Latte Panda development board, micro GPS circuit, power bank bounded together with 3D-printed plastic holder.
Developed real-world testbed, where drone and ground station will first mutually authenticate each other and establish a secure session key before sharing any critical information.