MARCH 24, 2021
The transition to 5G will affect every device connected to the internet, including drones. A team of scholars is working to protect the technology from vulnerabilities.
BY TOM ABATE
Later this year, in a lab in the Durand Building at Stanford University School of Engineering, a team of researchers will demonstrate how a tight formation of computer-controlled drones can be managed with precision even when the 5G network controlling it is under continual cyberattack. The demo’s ultimate success or failure will depend on the ability of an experimental network control technology to detect the hacks and defeat them within a second to safeguard the navigation systems.
On hand to observe this demonstration will be officials from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the government agency that’s underwriting Project Pronto. The $30 million effort, led by Nick McKeown, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford, is largely funded and technically supported through the nonprofit Open Networking Foundation (ONF), with help from Princeton and Cornell universities. Their goal: to make sure that the wireless world – namely, 5G networks that will support the autonomous planes, trains and automobiles of the future – remains secure and reliable as the wired networks we rely on today.
This is no small task and the consequences could not be greater. The transition to 5G will affect every device connected to the internet and, by extension, the lives of every person who relies on such networks for safe transportation. But, as recent intrusions into wired networks have shown, serious vulnerabilities exist.