US gov’t study touts blockchain use in drone tracking

Blockchain technology could be a game changer for the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry, a new report has revealed. The report by the U.S. Department of Transportation claimed that UASs could stand to benefit greatly from the operational integrity and trust that blockchain offers.

Titled ‘Blockchain for Unmanned Aircraft Systems’, the report delved into the challenges that face the UASs, better known as drones, and how blockchain can solve them. One of these is trust, especially since drones can be autonomous or remotely operated. “Blockchain can add trust with the use of policies and protocols. Commercial UAS applications, such as consumer and business package delivery, lend themselves to the integrity enhancements that a blockchain can provide,” it said.

The report listed some of the other benefits stating, “Blockchain technology is being looked on to deliver a framework that can be used by stakeholders in the commercial drone industry, as it can ensure security and provide for identity management as well as providing a supporting role in aircraft traffic management, UAS conflict management, and flight authorization.”

Already, the technology is being used in several projects in the UAS industry. One of the applications is in black boxes, with blockchain allowing the real-time relaying of flight information and allowing the operators to be proactive and not reactive.

The use of blockchain in black boxes has already been put to use, with DLT startup Red Cat releasing a blockchain-based black box in beta last year. Red Cat claimed that its black box allowed regulators to track and review drones flight data, gave insurers reliable data to insure drones and allowed pilots to comply with all the regulations.

Some major U.S. companies have also been exploring the use of blockchain in drone operations. Retail giant Walmart has filed a series of patents in the past two years to authenticate autonomous drones and allow them to communicate with each other. IBM has also filed a patent that seeks to address privacy and security concerns associated with the use of drones in both commercial and recreational capacities.

The report further singled out organ delivery as one of the best examples of a sector that’s suited for blockchain-based drone operations. In organ transplants, time is critical, with the chances of success falling for every minute the organ takes to get to the intended recipient. Drones reduce the time it takes to transport the organ and potentially save several lives. Blockchain will allow all the stakeholders, from the donor’s hospital to the recipient hospital, to track the drone and access all the information about the donor and the organ.

The use of drones is rising globally, and especially in essential services. Blockchain technology, in combination with the other technologies such as AI and machine learning, will make the industry safer and increase trust, the report concludes.

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