In an exercise which raises concerns about the security of GPS-guided unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are commonly called drones, a University of Texas research team - led by Prof. Todd Humphreys - at Austin's Radionavigation Laboratory hacked and "hijacked" a civilian drone aircraft.
Prof. Humphreys and his graduate students successfully hacked into the GPS signals of the drone; and later, in an exercise carried out in tandem with the Department of Homeland Security at White Sands, New Mexico, got enough control over the hijacked drone to make it land.
The exercise, carried out by Prof. Humphreys' team, comes at a time when the aerial industry is pushing for the adoption of GPS-guided UAVs, and the use of drones in the US is on the increase --- more so as local governments as well as private businesses consider drones to be an affordable and effective way of keeping an eye from the sky.
However, putting the security of the drones into questions, the researchers' exercise demonstrated the ease with which any person - equipped with some technical know-how and the requisite tools - can take complete control of a drone and command over its movements.
With the "hijacking" of the drone by the research team drawing attention to concerns about vulnerabilities in use of drones, Humphreys said that the ease with which a drone can be controlled would lead to a rather disquieting situation that can potentially cause "trouble in the skies."
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