Archive for the ‘aviation’ Category

The radio-navigation planes use to land safely is insecure and can be hacked

May 15th, 2019
A plane in the researchers' demonstration attack as spoofed ILS signals induce a pilot to land to the right of the runway.

Enlarge / A plane in the researchers' demonstration attack as spoofed ILS signals induce a pilot to land to the right of the runway. (credit: Sathaye et al.)

Just about every aircraft that has flown over the past 50 years—whether a single-engine Cessna or a 600-seat jumbo jet—relies on radios to safely land at airports. These instrument landing systems are considered precision approach systems, because, unlike GPS and other navigation systems, they provide crucial real-time guidance about both the plane’s horizontal alignment with a runway and its vertical rate of descent. In many settings—particularly during foggy or rainy nighttime landings—this radio-based navigation is the primary means for ensuring planes touch down at the start of a runway and on its centerline.

Like many technologies built in earlier decades, the ILS was never designed to be secure from hacking. Radio signals, for instance, aren’t encrypted or authenticated. Instead, pilots simply assume that the tones their radio-based navigation systems receive on a runway’s publicly assigned frequency are legitimate signals broadcast by the airport operator. This lack of security hasn’t been much of a concern over the years, largely because the cost and difficulty of spoofing malicious radio signals made attacks infeasible.

Now, researchers have devised a low-cost hack that raises questions about the security of ILS, which is used at virtually every civilian airport throughout the industrialized world. Using a $600 software defined radio, the researchers can spoof airport signals in a way that causes a pilot’s navigation instruments to falsely indicate a plane is off course. Normal training will call for the pilot to adjust the plane’s descent rate or alignment accordingly and create a potential accident as a result.

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Posted in aviation, Biz & IT, exploits, Features, ils, instrument landing systems, security, vulnerabilities | Comments (0)

More than an auto-pilot, AI charts its course in aviation

December 5th, 2018
Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Enlarge / Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (credit: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Welcome to Ars UNITE, our week-long virtual conference on the ways that innovation brings unusual pairings together. Each day this week from Wednesday through Friday, we're bringing you a pair of stories about facing the future. Today's focus is on AI in transportation—buckle up!

Ask anyone what they think of when the words "artificial intelligence" and aviation are combined, and it's likely the first things they'll mention are drones. But autonomous aircraft are only a fraction of the impact that advances in machine learning and other artificial intelligence (AI) technologies will have in aviation—the technologies' reach could encompass nearly every aspect of the industry. Aircraft manufacturers and airlines are investing significant resources in AI technologies in applications that span from the flightdeck to the customer's experience.

Automated systems have been part of commercial aviation for years. Thanks to the adoption of "fly-by-wire" controls and automated flight systems, machine learning and AI technology are moving into a crew-member role in the cockpit. Rather than simply reducing the workload on pilots, these systems are on the verge of becoming what amounts to another co-pilot. For example, systems originally developed for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) safety—such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) for traffic situational awareness—have migrated into manned aircraft cockpits. And emerging systems like the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) are being developed to increase safety when there's a need to compensate for aircraft handling characteristics. They use sensor data to adjust the control surfaces of an aircraft automatically, based on flight conditions.

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Posted in AI, analytics, ars-unite-2018, Artificial intelligence, aviation, Biz & IT, civil aviation, Features, fly-by-wire, machine learning | Comments (0)

Kelly’s Heroes: Lockheed’s five finest airplanes

March 4th, 2016

Almost exactly 106 years ago, one of the world’s greatest aircraft designers—Clarence “Kelly” Johnson—was born in Ishpeming, Michigan. And since we’re gigantic aviation nerds here at Ars Technica, the week of his birthday is as good a reason as any to celebrate some of his legendary designs. Johnson spent 44 years working at Lockheed, where he was responsible for world-changing aircraft including the high-flying U-2, the “missile with a man in it” F-104 Starfighter, and the almost-otherworldly Blackbird family of jets.

In his career at Lockheed, Johnson’s engineering acumen won him two Collier trophies, the most prestigious award one can win in the field of aeronautics (Lockheed chief engineer Hall Hibbard once famously said about Johnson, “That damn Swede can see air!”). In addition to being an excellent engineer, Johnson was also a powerfully effective manager; his practices running Lockheed’s Advanced Design Projects unit are commonly regarded now as a master-class on how small focused groups should communicate and manage projects.

But it is for his airplanes that Kelly Johnson is most remembered. Let’s look at the highlights.

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Posted in A-12, aircraft, aviation, Cars Technica, F-104, Kelly Johnson, Lockheed, P-38, P-80, Skunk Works, SR-71, U-2 | Comments (0)