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IBM Wants to Protect Drone Fleet Security with Blockchain


IBM Wants to Protect Drone Fleet Security with Blockchain


According to a new patent application registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the computing giant and prolific blockchain patent researcher IBM has applied for patenting a system that would use the technology behind blockchain (distributed ledger) in order to address the privacy and security concerns associated with the increasing use of drones in commercial and recreational applications.

Storing Data Linked to UAV Flights and Their Behavior

This is obviously not the first attempt by IBM to put an existing technology on a blockchain. As the official documents showcase, IBM first applied for this patent in March 2017, when they noticed the growing library of prospective blockchain applications.

As the patent application states, a blockchain ledger could be used in many ways to store data linked to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights. All of those ways are examined and detailed by IBM. As the giant noted, the blockchain could work “particularly when a security risk is considered to be relatively high,” ensuring that all airspace controllers and regulators can supervise the increasing number of drones filling up the skies.

Blocks Will Verify the Drone’s Flight Information and Respond Accordingly

In the system, blocks are used to verify the different data points related to the drone’s flight patterns – such as its location, manufacturer and model number as well as any unusual behavior, weather conditions and proximity (of the drone) to the restricted zones.

The authors briefly explain the system in the application:

“The chain can be considered a chronicle of a UAV’s path through time. When a transaction is conducted, the corresponding UAV parameters are sent to one or more of the computing nodes in the system for validation. The one or more computing nodes establish a validity of the transaction and generate a new block. Once the new block has been calculated, it can be appended to the stakeholder’s UAV blockchain. Among many other advantages, the use of a blockchain infrastructure helps in identifying misbehaving UAVs by multiple parties and such activities are recorded in an immutable ledger.“

The blockchain could include variable block times that change in response to the environmental triggers. For example, if a recreational drone flies too close to a restricted time zone, it will trigger a risk flag that will increase the network’s block time to provide the controllers with increased data on the UAV and its operator.

On the other hand, the system could also be used for drones which are actually aiding today’s systems. For example, medical supply carrying drones will be granted a special permission to operate in restricted airspaces – if they have the authorization to do so.

Adopting Machine Learning Models Through Smart Contracts

The risk assessments may be performed by analytical algorithms or machine learning models, all performed off-chain and interfaced with the blockchain ledger through the use of smart contracts.

This is not the first time IBM has applied for a blockchain system – and not the first time drones are in a patent application. Recently, the USPTO published a patent application from Walmart that aims to use blockchain technology and secure packages carried by drones in a supply chain made of robots and autonomous vehicles.


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Cite this article as: Stefan Tasevski, "IBM Wants to Protect Drone Fleet Security with Blockchain," in, September 24, 2018,

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