Why Are Engineers Intentionally Crashing Drones?

Johns Hopkins Engineers Test-Crash Drones To Find Vulnerabilities




” With sales of drones steadily increasing, many manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon to produce low-cost unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for amateur hobbyists.

  These drones, however, are often at risk from determined individuals trying to take them down. While anti-drone measures are in the works to protect the public, identifying security vulnerabilities in UAVs is often an afterthought by manufacturers and designers.

  Enter a research team from Johns Hopkins University, which has endeavored to identify, test and report on these vulnerabilities in a common hobbyist-level drone.”



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” The team of five grad students and their supervisor was able to identify three cybersecurity measures absent from the drone, and exploit them to cause it to either land or crash using the following approaches:

  • By bombarding the drone with numerous wireless connection requests in rapid succession, the researchers were able to overload the drone’s CPU, causing it to shut down. This caused an “uncontrolled landing.”
  • Another crash was caused by sending the drone an exceptionally large data packet, exceeding the capacity of a buffer in the aircraft’s flight application.
  • Lastly, the researchers repeatedly sent a fake digital packet from their laptop to the drone’s controller, telling it that the packet’s sender was the drone itself. Eventually, the controller identified the data as its own, breaking connection to the actual UAV. This forced an emergency landing.”


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