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XPONENTIAL Innovation Preview -- www.allthingsunmanned.com

Fri, Jun 29, 2012

Texas College Researchers Hijack Drone On A 'Dare'

Reportedly 'Spoofed' A UAV With A $1,000 Device

Sometimes, the words "don't dare me" carry some pretty significant meaning.

Take the example of researchers at the Austin Radionavigation Lab at the University of Texas, who were in essence "dared" to try to hack a supposedly hackproof drone by the Department of Homeland Security.

A variety of media sources, including MSC Now, Fox News, and the Russian news service RT are reporting that the researchers did just that; repeatedly taking control of a UAV in a controlled test using a piece of equipment worth about $1,000.

Professor Todd Humphrey of UT's Radionavigation Lab managed to scramble the flight plan of a small drone flying over Austin stadium. It was reportedly following its pre-programmed flight plan perfectly, until it wasn't. The drone dove towards the ground, but a crash was avoided when the team altered the course a few feet above the ground.

Humphrey told Fox News that the process is called "spoofing," and it's not very difficult for someone with the right equipment.

Spoofing involves jamming the UAV's GPS signals, but recent developments allow the spoofer to actually take over the drone and re-direct it. Humphrey said his spoofing device, which is the most advanced available, is at that $1,000 price point. It works by overpowering the weak signals coming from satellites with stronger ones emitted from the device.

The professor said finding a way to beat the spoofing devices is akin to reinforcing and locking the cockpit doors of commercial airliners. "We have to adopt that mentality as far as the navigation systems for the UAVs," he said.

(Predator UAV file photo)

FMI: www.dhs.gov

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