Technology Innovation Institute (TII), the applied research pillar of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), today announced that it has joined Dronecode, a US-based non-profit run by Linux Foundation to foster the use of open-source software on flying vehicles. TII obtained membership in the global organisation through its Secure Systems Research Centre (SSRC).

SSRC, one of the seven initial dedicated research centres at TII, is joining Dronecode to enhance the security and resilience in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems. Working closely with the Dronecode organisation, starting through the newly founded Security SIG (Special Interest Group), SSRC aims to develop and share security and resilience capabilities for the world's leading open UAV platform. The first practical software areas for SSRC to work on in Dronecode will be in cryptography, memory protection and code analysis.

Commenting on the announcement, H.E. Faisal Al Bannai, Secretary General of ATRC, said: “Unsecure drone systems may pose threats to our privacy, to cybersecurity and our physical safety. We want to be involved in making the current drone platforms better, more secure and resilient for the safe use of hobbyists, commercial and governmental authorities.”

He added: “At TII’s Secure Systems Research Centre (SSRC), we pursue research that is building a more secure tomorrow and helping the global community realise the true potential of the 21st century. We look forward to working closely with the Dronecode Foundation to add resilience and security to drone systems.”

Part of Dronecode, Pixhawk is the autopilot hardware (flight controllers) attached to a drone. It can be purchased and modified or have security integrated into it.

The Pixhawk project has hundreds of global contributors and is used by some of the world’s most innovative companies in various drone applications. The project is also the reference hardware platform for PX4 software, which is an open-source flight control software being used to pilot drones and other UAVs. According to Dronecode, PX4 is used in a wide range of use-cases, from consumer drones to industrial applications. It is also the leading research platform for drones and has been successfully applied to under water vehicles and boats. The project provides drone developers with tools to share technologies to create tailored solutions for drone applications.

Dr Shreekant (Ticky) Thakkar, Chief Researcher at SSRC, said the Centre is joining Dronecode to contribute to the security and resilience of Pixhawk and its PX4 software.

"At SSRC, we are building a global centre of excellence in the development of end-to-end security and resilience for cyber-physical and autonomous systems, and we are committed to the success of PX4 and Pixhawk open-source as it will enable the pervasive use of drones,” Dr Thakkar said. “Given SSRC priorities across platforms, software, and data integrity, we prioritise the secure fleet management of drones. As Dronecode is setting standards in the drone industry, it is a great pleasure for TII to join this foundation."

TII - which has seven initial dedicated research centres in secure systems, cryptography, autonomous robotics, quantum, advanced materials, digital security, and directed energy - joins prominent Dronecode Foundation members including software giant Microsoft Corp; software companies such as Auterion AG; Sentera Inc.; AirMap Inc.; DroneDeploy; and 3DR as well as chip maker NXP Semiconductors; Drotek Electronics, which offers electronics design and manufacturing services; and UVify, a manufacturer of drones for Fortune 500 companies.

TII offers world class facilities and resources with access to the most advanced technologies, accessible funding, light touch management and regulation, and the opportunity to work alongside the finest minds in their fields. As a research organisation that collaborates on many research projects around the world, TII is well positioned to enhance the collaboration between the leading scientific research and the UAV developer communities.