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Australia Security Transportation

UAV Operator Blames Hacking For Malfunction That Injured Triathlete 178

jaa101 (627731) writes "The owner of a drone which fell and reportedly hit an athlete competing in a triathlon in Western Australia's Mid West has said he believes the device was 'hacked' into." From the article: "Mr Abrams said an initial investigation had indicted that someone nearby "channel hopped" the device, taking control away from the operator. ... Mr Abrams said it was a deliberate act and it would be difficult to determine who was responsible as something as common as a mobile phone could be used to perform a channel hop. The videographer added that there had been a similar incident when the drone was flown earlier in the day."
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UAV Operator Blames Hacking For Malfunction That Injured Triathlete

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  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @12:09AM (#46680717)

    In the US the FAA would also probably be fining him.

    Well, that's not entirely clear just this moment. In the now-headed-into-appeals area of Huerta v Pirker, it kinda looks like the FAA doesn't actually have any formal, properly constructed rules in place. Guidance only. Their distinction between recreational and commercial use of the very same RC machines used by the same people in the same place at the very same time is pretty ridiculous - and the administrative law judge handling round one of that case agreed. But the case is still baking.

    So, if you dropped your camera drone on someone's head in the US right now, and weren't flying next to an airport or beyond line of site or over 400' ... then the trouble you're in is roughly the same as if you'd hit the same person in the head with a lawn dart or a football. Good ol' fashioned reckless endangerment, having nothing to do with the FAA pe se.

  • Re:Evolution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @01:36AM (#46681031)

    but if it happened twice in one day either someone is out there deliberately hashing the channels to mess with everybody, or he just went out of range/did something wrong/etc.

    Or someone on the track next door has a track cleaning machine with bad shielding around the motor. They clean the other track whilst everyone is looking at the athletes competing over on the other side.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:03AM (#46681103)

    Frequency hopping RC radios are pretty much the standard today among model plane enthusiasts. My dad happens to fly them and IIRC the freq hopping technology went into mainstream a good decade ago, as far as I know you can't even get "old school", fixed-channel controls anymore. It's also low-tech-person compatible technology (my dad most definitely is one), you simply press a button on both sender and receiver to "attune" them and you're set.

    The technology is also quite tamper proof. Short of full frequency spectrum static flooding, there is very little you can do to disable communication between sender and receiver, let alone "take over" control of such a plane.

    Of course, I don't know what the current tech standard for drones is like. I would have thought, though, that the standard would be higher than it is for toys.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:34AM (#46681183)

    Depending on the model of drone, NO IT IS NOT
    The parrot AR drone in particular has no security, and you can't add any ontop of it (We've tried, and it wants to be a black box, and me trying is why posting as AC)

    Many of the drones out there are NOT meant to be tinkered with, and I haven't yet seen one (non military) that has any level of encryption at all or really even authentication...

    The first good drone that runs something like the Google Android that is going to be for ultra low energy use for smart watches, etc that is suppose to be coming out this summer... or something similar will probably be the first reasonably priced drone with any decent encryption, let alone tinkering

  • Re:Evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <> on Monday April 07, 2014 @04:02AM (#46681535) Journal

    Something went wrong, he throws up the "it wasn't me it must be those evil hackers" defence rather than accepting the blame for putting his device together poorly or letting it go out of range.

    The drone looks like a DJI Flamewheel F550, and I'm guessing by his comments he was using the DJI iPad Ground Station (or equivalent) to bluetooth to his iDevice.

    That gives any hacker two vectors of opportunity, but also the operator two transmitters to get out of range from, with the Bluetooth connection being the shortest range and most likely culprit. And if it was really a bad guy taking control or disrupting the connection, I suspect the iPad's Bluetooth is again the one any opportunistic villain would be more likely to be familiar with.

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