Security of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems against Cyber-Physical Attacks


The federal aviation administration has estimated that by the year 2020, the United States will have over 30,000 drones. Nowadays, drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are ubiquitous and have numerous uses beyond military applications. This is because UAVs can be used in hazardous missions, since they exclude the risk factors involved in manned vehicles. Despite their benefits, UAVs are prone to attacks as they are equipped with numerous on-board sensors to gather data and this exposes them to various vulnerabilities. More precisely, in the absence of manual control, an attacker can gain access to sensitive sensory data and feed fraudulent information to the UAV. As a result, it can be reprogrammed to an undesirable effect and this can cause irreversible damage. This paper provides a general overview of current hacking methods, and defense and trust strategies to overcome cyber attacks on UAVs. To further highlight the importance of the requirement of developing new methods to avoid any intrusion, a hacking procedure is implemented on a commercially available UAV and its severe results are demonstrated. It is shown that the hacker can make irreparable damage and take complete control over the UAV by compromising the communication link between the operator and UAV and uses Robot Operating System-based tools to alter the flight path.


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Aircraft Control; Computer Crime; Drones; Military Applications; Military Vehicles; Personal Computing; Vehicles; Cyber Physicals; Federal Aviation Administration; Irreversible Damage; Robot Operating System; Security; Trust; Undesirable Effects; Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems; Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV); Cyber-Physical Attacks; Hacking; Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2016 SAGE Publications, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jul 2016