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NASA Proposes Blockchain-powered Air Traffic Management

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) published a proposal for developing a blockchain-powered infrastructure for air traffic management, that is expected to provide security, authentication, and privacy.

The current radar-based air traffic service providers only preserve privacy for military and corporate operations by procedurally preventing public release of selected flight plans, position, and state data.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has mandated for national adoption of Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) system by 2020 for all aircraft flying in the National Airspace System (NAS). The general aviation and the US military lag behind their implementation schedule of ADS-B.

However, the ADS-B does not include provisions for maintaining these same aircraft-privacy options, nor does it address the potential for spoofing, denial of service, and other well-documented risk factors.

Meanwhile, the proposal published by NASA presents an engineering prototype that embodies a design and method that may be applied to mitigate these ADS-B security issues.

The Aviation Blockchain Infrastructure (ABI) prototype uses an open source permissioned blockchain platform called "Hyperledger Fabric" for aircraft privacy and anonymity while providing a secure and efficient method for communication with air traffic services, operations support, or other authorized entities.

The prototype features certificate authority, smart contract support, and higher-bandwidth communication channels for private information that may be used for secure communication between any specific aircraft and any particular authorized member, sharing data in accordance with the terms specified in the form of smart contracts.

The prototype demonstrates how this scalable architecture and serverless infrastructure can be economically and rapidly deployed and maintained. It also proposes to use a "lightly permissioned" blockchain framework to enable the ADS-B systems to meet or exceed the same levels of privacy and security currently provided by radar-based systems in the NAS.

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