Interference-proof positioning of drones

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Tamper-proof positioning applications are possible using the European satellite navigation system Galileo and the Public Regulated Service.

The Galileo PRS ensures tamper-proof tracking of drone flights on behalf of emergency services.

The police, fire, and rescue services are gradually beginning to use unmanned drones in their operations. In order to monitor critical infrastructures, mass meetings, or political events, drones can fly along predefined routes, for example, in order to supply aerial imagery and a better overview of the situation. If operations of this kind use only the conventional satellitebased GPS positioning system, the signal is vulnerable to tampering using interfering transmitters known as jammers and spoofers.

In collaboration with Airbus Defence and Space, we have developed the Spoofing Resistant Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (SORUS) concept, which allows government-authorized users of the Galileo Public Regulated Service (PRS) to equip drones with a secure, tamper-proof system. The Galileo PRS is a highly protected, encrypted service for satellite navigation applications. The Public Regulated Service offers high security standards for civilian users to ensure tamper-proof positioning.

Conventional PRS receivers, complete with a security module, are typically too large and consume too much power to be used in drones. In the SORUS concept, the security-relevant PRS processing steps are outsourced to a secure environment. Prior to the planned operation, the sequences required for PRS access are optimized, precalculated, and then uploaded to the drone. The drone therefore only receives the data it needs for its mission, so that it can use the PRS without a security module.

“The SORUS system makes it easier for public institutions to use the Galileo PRS. It can act as a door-opener for applications that would not be feasible using a conventional PRS receiver because of its weight, size, or price,” says Alexander Rügamer, group manager Specialized GNSS Receivers at Fraunhofer IIS.

In November, Alexander Rügamer and Dr. Jan Wendel were awarded the Overall Prize in the European Satellite Navigation Competition 2017. With SORUS, they also won Best Project from Bavaria in the Bavaria Challenge and the PRS Special Prize.