University of North Dakota UAS Counter-Measures Research

October 26, 2017

UND University of North Dakota Electrical Engineering faculty member Naima Kaabouch focuses a lot of her time these days on devising ways to improve the safety and security of aircraft.

Her work covers jamming, spoofing, and many other attacks that target UAS collision avoidance technologies:the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) device, which broadcasts information about the aircraft carrying this device.

ADS-B, Kaabouch explains, relays information about the aircraft's identification, position, and velocity to nearby aircraft and ground stations.

"ADS-B attacks can lead to the appearance of fake aircraft or the disappearance of real aircraft from the visualization systems of pilots and air controllers," "It's a problem, for sure," says Kaabouch, an expert in wireless communications and networks, signal processing, and cyber security.

Kaabouch and her team of graduate students are researching new ways to detect and mitigate cyber attacks on UAS and aircraft in general. With recent grants from EPSCoR/NSF and the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce supporting her research into the security and safety concerns of UAS in flight, Kaabouch is looking at how to stop bad actors from messing with UAS systems.

Kaabouch's PhD student Mohsen Riahi Manesh (from Isfahan, Iran) is looking at attacks on UAS ADS-B system..Manesh is also investigating attacks that target other aircraft systems, such as GPS. This work is supported by a $62,000 EPSCoR/NSF two year grant titled "Securing Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast for Air Traffic Control."

"The objective is to develop counter-attack techniques for all aircraft," said Manesh. "The race is on as federal regulators will require that by 2020 all aircraft have ADS-B on board."

The $1 million ND Research grant titled "Enabling UAS Operations through a UAS Network Infrastructure" is a collaborative project between UND and Harris. For this grant of $1,002,956, Kaabouch is working with PI, Chris Theisen (director of R&D for the Northern Plains Test Site) and CoPI, Mark Askelson (of Atmospheric Sciences and interim executive director of the UND Research Institute for Autonomous systems) to analyze all the safety concerns and hazards related to UAS.

UND2 This grant also supports Kaabouch's team in developing a detect-and-avoid system that will be integrated into the commercial Harris's RangeView software, which allows pilots and air controllers to monitor aircraft to avoid any conflict.

"To test our detect-and-avoid solution, we did several flight tests with Chris and Mark Askelson during an earlier grant with Harris," Kaabouch said." Master's student Kyle Foerster, from Pisek, ND, and research engineer Michael Mullins, from La Grande, OR, are working under Kaabouch on this project.

An innovation in Kaabouch's research is the development and use of the so-called "Hardware in the Loop and Software in the Loop platforms." These platforms enable the team to test solutions using scenarios in lab setting like in real airspace.

"We can actually simulate a flight in the lab," said Mullins, who also is a licensed pilot and flight instructor. "With these simulations, there are no FAA regulations to comply with. "This gives us the freedom to simulate many different scenarios with low cost and no risk," Mullins said. "Flight testing is costly, so this gives us the opportunity to explore possible issues and solutions across most of these projects in a simulated flight environment. We then analyze the results in the lab and address any issue that may arise before any actual flight tests."

Foerster is the team's head programmer. Under Kaabouch, he is working with Harris on integrating the detect-and-avoid algorithm into the Harris RangeView commercial software.

"We are very excited to be working on the cutting edge of cyber-security for UAS, and integrating our detect-and-avoid algorithm in the Harris commercial RangeView software," said Kaabouch. "This is really about our collective safety in the air for aircraft and people."

Story via UAS Vision News