One of the concerns as rc model aircraft (quads, "drones", etc) become more popular is that of "control". The FAA are already trying to take more control by forcing many folks to register their drones/UAS.
But I think responsible folks should have more control of their own property.
So who's thought about using something like flutter to securely encrypt rc model tx/rx control (tx to rx) and telemetry (rx to tx) so that aircraft can't be hijacked by malicious actors?
You're saying a hacker or law enforcement can jump over my kid's Phantom and control the drone?
Control signals are typically frequency-hopping spread spectrum PWM encoded data. It's not hard to get a cheap USB radio and tune a transmitter to "jump over" a target aircraft. Various folks have been successful with "taking over" drones.
It's a reasonable assumption that if the researchers are publishing this then the hackers have been doing it for a while. It would be naive to think that government bodies or even private entities are not already commercialising products that can do this.
Isn't it dangerous to mess with radio signals of a flying object?
Yes. But most flight controllers (the "CPU" of the drone) have a "fail safe" or "return to home" feature which is supposed to prevent certain accidents. If the aircraft flies out of range or the battery of the tx fails or there is interference then the fail-safe should kick in. Some just "land" slowly. Others with GPS, etc (like the DJI products) will return autonomously to the coordinates of launch.
So now tell me how Flutter can help
The black van that follows the president's motorcade (among other things) transmits an extremely powerful noise signal over all the GSM/3G/LTE bands so that you're phone is rendered useless: jamming. Your rc model is also susceptible to this trick. This means I can "scream" over the signal so the rx goes into fail-safe, but I suspect that action will just deliver the model back to the owner in most cases (return to home). A good thing for the model owner.
The bad thing for the model owner is when a hacker (or otherwise) takes a clever approach and impersonates your transmitter so they can control where your aircraft lands. They then have your property and maybe your GoPro footage and then you're pretty screwed. If the rx receives what it thinks are "valid signals" it won't trigger fail-safe mode but continue to respond to control signals. If the malicious actor is closer to the aircraft that your tx, or they boost their signal so that the rx can only "hear" the malicious signal then they own the model and not you.
Enter Flutter: an encrypted signal does not prevent jamming but it does prevent 3rd party control.
If someone was to take something like Flutter and insert it at the encoder for the tx to encrypt the raw PWM signals and then insert another device into the rx just after the antenna, perhaps control (and telemetry) would not be so easy to spoof.
Jamming would still trigger the return-to-home. But that's not what the attacker wants. Unless the malicious hacker had the private key for the secure communications, they won't be able to impersonate the tx and "take over" the model aircraft.
So.. are we doing this yet? I think it solves a real problem.