New European CyTEF Facility for Assessing UAV Resilience - Inside GNSS - Global Navigation Satellite Systems Engineering, Policy, and Design

New European CyTEF Facility for Assessing UAV Resilience

Today’s air transportation management depends on a complex systems of systems, operating under stringent reliability and safety requirements. The use of satellite communications, GNSS and other PNT services represents a range of vulnerabilities to inadvertent as well as intentional hostile action.

At a recent workshop hosted by the Belgian Science Policy Office, a Belgian consortium presented a new cybersecurity testing and evaluation facility. Telespazio Belgium Business Development Manager Christina Chicarella and M3 Systems CEO Olivier Desenfans described their first-of-a-kind-in-Europe solution for testing the resilience of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones against attack in today’s rapidly evolving threat landscape.

The new Cybersecurity Test and Evaluation Facility (CyTEF) is designed to test UAV resilience against different types of cyberattacks. It was first deployed and demonstrated at the European Space Agency’s European Space Security and Education Center, in Redu, Belgium. The DronePort UAS aerodrome in Sint-Truiden also made available segregated airspace for drone testing under the CyTEF framework.

The platform includes a custom, standalone and mobile RF attack generator, a command and control (C2) and custom command and control (C3) attack generator, a GNSS attack generator and an IT and Wi-Fi link attack generator. All of this is integrated with advanced data collection and analysis utilities.

The C2/C3 element is optimized for testing common 2.4G drones against intentional and unintentional jamming and meaconing attacks. The highly configurable GNSS component employs the M3 Systems Stella GNSS simulator, designed to test and validate GNSS receiver under realistic and controlled conditions, supporting multiple constellations: GPS, Galileo, GLONASS, QZSS, BeiDou and satellite-based augmentation systems such as WAAS and EGNOS. The GNSS element is also capable of assessing the impact on tested UAVs of commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) jammers and spoofers.

Real UAV systems assessed

During the facility’s demonstration phase, the consortium assessed the resilience against attack of a number of commercially available drone systems, including models by Airobot and DJI, and the French-made Boreal drone. All reference drones were adversely affected during the performed attack scenarios, with their various GNSS receivers and communication links displaying different levels of resilience.

CyTEF operators made a number of actionable observations, noting, among other things, that dedicated drone communication protocols were more resilient than general purpose Wi-Fi to accidental and intentional interference. Other insights were gained regarding required time and power for successful attacks and potential countermeasures.

The CyTEF project was carried out with funding from the European Space Agency’s NAVISP program, aimed at supporting the development of new PNT solutions in participating member states. Other consortium members included Belgium-based drone system providers Unifly and Airobot.