Why Security Matters for Public Safety Drone Operations

By Tim Skutt, Senior Certification Systems Engineer • November 21, 2020

When a first responder uses a drone, whether for a routine mission or in response to an emergency situation, such as a natural disaster, civil unrest, or pandemic response, their first thoughts should not be: “Has someone hacked my drone preventing me from using it?”, “Are the services I depend on down or unavailable (from a denial-of-service attack)?”, or “Is my ground controller locked up with ransomware?” Instead, the focus should be on meeting mission objectives, and knowing that their operations are secure.

While planning flights and flying, first responders need to be sure that the mission and its details are kept secret from adversaries, media, and others who may interfere with the success of the mission. They need confidentiality.

As sensor data and mission logs are leveraged in real-time – or after mission completion for forensics, legal, or compliance purposes – public safety users need to have confidence that the information is authentic and hasn’t been tampered with. They need integrity.

And the drone and its ground controller are tools that need to be deployed at a moment’s notice, and operate as transparently as possible, to ensure that mission objectives are met. First responders and public safety users need drone availability.

Confidentiality, integrity, and availability form the three legs of the CIA triad. The examples above are just a few of the many aspects of confidentiality, integrity, and availability that need to be addressed in public safety drone operations. Ensuring security objectives from each part of the CIA triad are addressed so drone users can focus on mission success is why security matters for your drone operations.