Saturday, 30 June 2012 17:02

Update On Drone GPS Spoofing By The University of Texas Team *** Update 7-1-2102***

Written by

Reading time is around minutes.

oct-5-demo-029Yesterday we wrote an article where we described how a military drone could be hacked through the use of GPS spoofing. This morning we received an email from one of the people involved in the actual event with some clarifications. First despite original reports (and some addition information we were given) the drone that was used for the demonstration was not a military class drone. It was one that the University of Texas purchased. It is still fairly sophisticated and is the same kind used by law enforcement. The team did this to point out serious issues with commercial drones before there is a rewrite of the FAA rules governing this new class of vehicles. You can check out the original story about for more information on the hack.

**********UPDATE 7/1/2012 - We have heard from Both Vanguard Defense Industries and Todd Humphreys from the University of Texas. The Drone in quesstion was NOT purchased from Vanguard. The University of Texas declined to state how they did purchase it from, but commented that the vulnerability exists in any drone that uses Civil GPS systems. ******************

The original demonstration of this was done at the University of Texas in their stadium. After the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) heard about this they invited the group out to show it to them. According to Todd Humphreys (Assistant Professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering) there was no money or dare involved. They were invited out to demonstrate what they had already done by DHS and so they did.

What we do find interesting is that even in their own article there is nothing saying that the drone used in the demonstration was the same one used at the University of Texas Although it is likely that it is the same drone I do know from past experience with military testing that they often change things on presenters to avoid the possibility of a stacked demo. There are also no images that we could find of the demo at White Sands which makes us wonder about the particular set of circumstances that took place during the official trial at the testing range. According to an article that Professor Humphrey’s sent us they spoofed a drone approximately 1Km away (a little more than half a mile away).

oct-5-demo-029Image of a Piston Type Shaowhawk Mark-I - Image from Vanguard Defense Industries

Interestingly enough we have a lead on the type of drone used; looking at the pictures from the UT Demo and comparing the profiles and hardware it looks a lot like the electric version of the Shadowhawk from Vanguard Defense Industries. This is a Texas Based contractor that provides drones for Law Enforcement, commercial entities and also for the military. We have reached out to both Todd Humphreys and Vanguard for confirmation of this and also to find out what the differences are between their commercial, law enforcement and military drones. Most importantly, to us, is if the use encrypted GPS in any of their armed drones as it looks like some of their armed versions can be purchased by law enforcement. Vanguard also has worked very closely with DHS and has programs to get drones funded by DHS for lawenforcement and some commercial projects. We also found it interesting that Anonymous hacked Vanguard about a year ago.

For now we do have the word of the person (Todd Humphreys) who was on the spot. He states that the drone was a civilian drone, not military and that there was no dare or money involved in the event at all. As this story has turned much more interesting we will continue to try and find out more information on it over the next few days and will follow up with anything we can dig up.

Discuss this in our Forum

Read 4115 times Last modified on Sunday, 01 July 2012 17:50

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.