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Smart Contracts for Drones Using Blockchain

Drone Logistics and BlockChain


Smart Contracts for Drones Using Blockchain

Since drones are in common use in day to day living in modern cities, it becomes imperative to implement some kind of universally acceptable authorization and traceability of unmanned drones for service deliveries. Currently, the implementation of drone tracking and its end to end flight validation is still poorly defined.

Bearing this in mind researchers Khevatraj Purmanan, Anamika Abhoypada Das and Somesh U. Malimath have written a research paper on a consensus based smart contract using blockchain technology within the drone application which makes it permissible to fly and be tracked by a drone discovery protocol.

With a rising market for specific enterprise unmanned drones to deliver a specific service, a trusted, yet decentralized validation method is required. Their method involves developing a consensus mechanism tying all entities within the drone ecosystem is needed (e.g., the manufacturer, insurance companies, smart city authorities, traffic controller, etc.

The team proposes that different areas of the ecosystem can act as validators in the solution for tracking drones over blockchain. The technology relies on a blockchain smart contract as a mechanism which provides uniqueness and immutability as a secure and trusted source of validation. Smart contracts are code written into a blockchain network which sets terms of agreement and once met reach consensus that then allows triggering of the terms to be executed.

below depicts some of the unans wered questions from the entities who play part of the ecosystem today

Diagram depicts some of the unanswered questions from the entities who play part of the ecosystem today

The proposed solution allows Enterprise drones to have an embedded blockchain application which participates as a node to its validator blockchain. It reaches consensus for flight through a “Trigger and Execution” smart contract algorithm. This acts as a protocol license which satisfies all the criteria to enable flight features to serve its purpose. All the criteria may be defined through the smart contract which is validated by the different participants in the blockchain ecosystem (e.g., manufacturer, reseller, insurance company, aviation authority, business provider, etc.). The consensus is a cryptographic hash which is immutable and unique. This then becomes the fundamental unique identifier key when used across a specific drone discovery protocol on blockchain enabled devices or platforms within a networked infrastructure.

The concept may be deployed within Service Provider mobility, cell towers, or a smart city networked infrastructure where drones are flying to deliver a service. For example using GETH on a Raspberry PI (RPi) to control a rotor over an Ethereum blockchain would work well. Once consensus is reached based on the terms set by the validators, the application on the RPi will allow the rotor to turn. The illustration below depicts communication between the entities of enterprise drones as a proof of concept.

Defined herewith is the journey of a drone within its ecosystem from manufacturing to end of life. The drone manufacturer creates the entry of the drone with all relevant information with a smart contract. This smart contract gets stored on the blockchain as a unique source of truth. Validators who are also part of the same blockchain validate and get a copy of the contract. When an enterprise business owner buys a drone, the owner is required to update the relevant entries on the type of service and stores this on the blockchain. When the drone is actioned for flight, its embedded application looks for its validator blockchain to validate its contract. Upon successful validation where all criteria are met, the smart contract achieves consensus and the “trigger and execution” code allows the drone to enable the flight feature (like a licensed feature).

The network edge devices act as trust anchors that discover requests from drones broadcasting Drone Discovery Identifiers (DDiDs) via cryptographic public keys / smart contract signatures.

Communication between the entities of enterprise drones as a proof of concept.

Communication between the entities of enterprise drones as a proof of concept.

At power on, the drone initiates a Power On Self Test (POST) which then triggers Access Point Discovery (APD) to have wider area connectivity to its nearest blockchain. The drone receives the connectivity information and nearest router resolution addresses as part of an APD Acknowledgement (ACK) message. The drone broadcasts an immutable secure DDiD which is made up of a crypto-key pair. Since the nodes participate as validators in the blockchain, they have a secure hash to validate the DDiD. The drone gets a DDiD ACK for the valid tracking ID via the discovery protocol from the router. The drone requests for consensus (DCON) to fly via validation through the blockchain smart contract trigger algorithm. On valid authorization (DCON ACK), the flight features are enabled on the drone for the flight. This enables an end-to-end solution to provide orchestration for deploying drones for an enterprise.

Citation: Purmanan, Khevatraj; Das, Anamika Abhoypada; and Malimath, Somesh U., “DRONE DISCOVERY PROTOCOL FOR ENTERPRISE DRONES VIA SMART CONTRACTS”, Technical Disclosure Commons, (October 11, 2018)


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