Unifly announces completion of FAA-backed UTM project

Jan. 4, 2024
The project aimed to refine and validate a comprehensive UTM cybersecurity model, including requirements and a certification scheme within an operational setting.

ANTWERP, Belgium - Unmanned traffic management (UTM) technology company Unifly in Antwerp, Belgium announced the completion of the Unified UTM Cybersecurity Model project. This initiative, sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under Broad Agency Announcement call 003, was executed in collaboration with the Rhea Group in Brabant Wallon, Belgium, and the NY UAS Test Site (NYUASTS) in Rome, New York. The project aimed to refine and validate a comprehensive UTM cyber security model, including requirements and a certification scheme, within an operational setting.

In the context of the burgeoning drone industry, prioritizing the safety and security of our airspace is of the highest importance. UTM systems, being software-based, highly automated, and relatively recent, present an attractive target for cyber threats. These threats pose risks to aviation safety, the privacy of airspace users, and overall business operations. Despite the unanimous acknowledgment of cybersecurity as a critical safety concern, UTM cybersecurity has been only partially explored to date, with gaps in system requirements and a lack of a unified certification scheme.

Unifly and others worked with stakeholders in the FAA, NSA, Nav Canada, and DroneUp in Virginia Beach, Virginia to get feedback and security requirements for UTM needs.  The feedback and security requirements collected during these interviews highlighted the urgent need for an updated security framework. Stakeholders emphasized the necessity of a comprehensive UTM-specific cybersecurity model to address the evolving operational landscape.

Building on this input, the project team refined system requirements and security controls for an updated prototype model. The prototype underwent testing through actual flights at the NY Test site, demonstrating its effectiveness in diverse operational environments.

The extensive validation process involved over 60 flights, covering scenarios of optimal conditions, simulated attacks, and operations with countermeasures. The successful demonstration of the updated prototype model in real-world conditions at the NY Test site affirms the need and efficacy of implemented security controls.

The findings and best practices derived from this project will serve as a baseline for future cybersecurity framework development. The results not only benefit the UTM industry but also various stakeholders, including drone operators, regulators, and the general public, ensuring the safety and privacy of all airspace users. By implementing advanced cybersecurity measures, we can have confidence in the security of our airspace.

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