Toward a more secure, resilient, and safer PX4 Autopilots System

By September 12, 2021Announcements

Sponsored blog post by TII

As our world becomes increasingly digital with a greater reliance than ever on sophisticated technology such as AI and autonomous drones for everything from reconnaissance missions in security industries to drone delivery of groceries and pharmaceuticals, one thing is clear. This is a world that will require us to update our know-how on an almost continuous basis to ensure we are able to maximise the gains from such technology.

Secure Systems Research Centre (SSRC) is one of the seven initial dedicated research centres of the Technology Innovation Institute (TII), a global research hub and applied research arm of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), the overarching entity mandated to drive the R & D priorities and shape a research ecosystem in the UAE.

At SSRC, our work in advanced autonomous systems, cyber-physical systems and in shaping smart cities means we are more aware of the hyper-connected world we live in today. As part of our core mandate, we pursue applied research in building a more secure tomorrow and helping the global community realise the true potential of the 21st century. 

One of the systems we are actively focused on in our research endeavours is the PX4 Autopilot system, with a view to ensuring its security and resilience. We headlined a presentation at the virtual PX4 Development Summit titled ‘Toward a more secure, resilient, and safer PX4 Autopilot system’. The focus of the presentation was on how to use the PX4 Firmware to enable drone security research and to outline the basic security improvements that are being developed for encryption, memory protection, and more secure hardware.

Unsecure drone systems can pose threats to our privacy, cyber security, and our physical safety. SSRC is keen to improve the current drone platform to make it more secure, resilient, and safe for hobbyists, commercial entities, and governmental authorities to use. Our aim with this presentation was to highlight how to use the PX4 Firmware to enable drone security research. We also outlined the basic security improvements that are being developed for encryption, memory protection, and more secure hardware. 

In addition, SSRC presented a security-enabled hardware platform onto which the PX4 Autopilot software was ported to achieve extremely high performance. The hardware platform is based on RISC-V application grade CPU cores, and it is capable of running multiple operating systems in parallel. What’s more, the hardware platform integrates hardware-accelerated cryptography onto a single Security Operations Centre. Porting the PX4 Autopilot onto this new platform enables new exploratory paths in drone software development for SSRC’s research partners. For more information about the presentation, you can access it here.

At Secure Systems Research Centre, as part of our umbrella mission, we are driving end-to-end security and resilience in cyber-physical and autonomous systems that will ensure safety and enrich lives in the UAE and worldwide. To get in touch or collaborate with us, please visit https://securesystems.tii.ae/ 

Ramón Roche

Author Ramón Roche

Ramon is the Dronecode Program Manager, you can read more about him on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/ramon-roche/

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