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Indeed, this is really bad reporting (IAA UAV researcher).

They were using a small rotary wing (relatively cheap) research UAV, despite the various articles including pictures of Global Hawks/MQ-9s etc. These small systems are usually designed for research, and so use the same UBlox/MTK/Sirf based GPS chipsets you find in sat-nav systems for example.

It looks similar to a Yamaha RMax, although I can't be bothered to find the actual model. The RMax is designed for agricultural use & research, not fighting wars.

The vehicle control software simply assumes the GPS is correct. It wouldn't be that difficult to cross-check against the IMU data - our research drones can happily fly for a few seconds if they loose their GPS lock but spoofing would probably knock them down, because we just assume it won't happen!

You could build a DIY version of the Texas drone for around $1000 using open source hardware and a COTS model helicopter.


This not news, anyone who works with these vehicles knows this. It's like shooting a horse and then claiming terrorists can take out tanks with a single bullet.

While I agree the article is sensationalist and the pictures are misleading, I disagree that there is no relevance. If anything, everything you've said makes it more concerning. These are exactly the kind of drones we will have flying overhead, which will all be easily borked by anybody with $1000 and some good technical knowledge.

I agree it is an area that could do with research. However, we know consumer level GPSs have no protection against spoofing (indeed, you can buy GPS jammers from various websites for defeating fleet tracking systems).

You could as well use a replay attack against the pilot's control system (probably on 2.4GHz) using much cheaper hardware.

There is still plenty of work to do before these class of research drones become commonplace overhead - in particular, practically every onboard system is a single point of failure.

Sounds to me then like FAA should require all drones to be safe against things like GPS spoofing, GPS jammers and replay attacks before they open up the airspace for drones.

And/or jail people for using GPS jammers.

Thanks for your comment.

If you are comfortable would you mind linking to your homepage or sending me your contact info? (You can find my email at dylanfield.com) I'd love to talk more with you sometime.

The Rmax is much larger than the helicopter UT is flying.

Indeed - I eventually found a picture of it with a person for scale. Do you know what it is?

I believe they are using an electric Logo 500.

Edit: yep. It's from Adaptive Flight, Inc. which is a modified Logo 500. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/07/drone-hijacking/all/

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