Abu Dhabi-UAE: 10 March, 2021 – Technology Innovation Institute (TII), the applied research pillar of the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), today announced that its Secure Systems Research Centre (SSRC) has partnered with Purdue University, a world-renowned US-based public research university. The two entities are collaborating on a three-year sophisticated cybersecurity project to ensure Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can be used safely and efficiently in urban operations.
The partnership announcement follows a series of rapid announcements at Technology Innovation Institute since first Advanced Technology Research Council board meeting in August 2020.
Secure Systems Research Centre is one of the initial seven dedicated research centres at Technology Innovation Institute. The research collaboration with Purdue University, titled ‘Cybersecurity for UAS Operations in Urban Environment’, includes the study of security and resilience in cyber-physical and autonomous systems. The project will examine safety challenges that Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) experience in operating environments. These systems and vehicles are vulnerable to sophisticated cyberattacks in terms of communication, navigation, surveillance, and command and control. The outcome of this research will help other research at Secure Systems Research Centre in the future.
Speaking about the research partnership, Dr Shreekant (Ticky) Thakkar, Chief Researcher at Secure Systems Research Centre leading the Secure Autonomous Computing work, said: “Our world is becoming increasingly complex. This is evidenced by the rising number of cyberattacks and surveillance breaches that occur daily. We must regain control over critical digital systems. We are optimistic that the research outcomes at TII’s Secure Systems Research Centre will allow us to gain the upper hand in the fight against these malicious attacks.”
Dr Thakkar added: “We are delighted to have the Purdue Team led by Prof. Inseok Hwang of School of Aeronautics and Astronautics partner on making cyber-physical and autonomous systems secure and resilient to malware using their state of the art autonomous drone testing facility. This will enable commercial autonomous drones and robots growth in the UAE and worldwide, opening new opportunities to enterprises and making their use safer for all people.”
A multidisciplinary group of researchers from Purdue University will join forces with TII’s Secure Systems Research Centre team.
The research project comprises four phases of development. First, it will carry out a modelling and analysis of UAS security. Second, it will develop algorithms and methodologies for high-assurance autonomy. Third, it will construct an experimental environment and work to simulate safe and secure urban UAS operations. Finally, it will test and validate mitigation strategies in a scaled, mixed-reality testbed.
This three-year project led by Prof. Inseok Hwang as the principal investigator. Prof. Hwang is assisted on this project by two co-researchers from Purdue University – Prof. James Goppert, a visiting assistant professor at the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and managing director of the UAS Research and Test Facility; and Prof. Dongyan Xu, the Samuel D. Conte Professor of Computer Science and Director of CERIAS (Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security), Purdue’s cybersecurity research and education center.
As part of their work on the project, Prof. Hwang will assess potential cyberattacks on the systems, Prof. Xu will conduct resource-efficient encryption, multi-UAS communications, and other research from the cyber perspective while Prof. Goppert will test the drones in a special mixed reality environment he will design and build.
Commenting on the research, Prof. Hwang said: “This landmark project comes at a time of growing reliance on UASs across various sectors – from security to medicine and logistics, and everything in between. We are confident that our partnership will translate into global wins for the international community and lead to many more research milestones in the years to come.”
Technology Innovation Institute is a pioneering global research and development centre that focuses on applied research and new-age technology capabilities. The institute has seven initial dedicated research centres in quantum, autonomous robotics, cryptography, advanced materials, digital security, directed energy and secure systems. By working with exceptional talent, universities, research institutions and industry partners from all over the world, the Institute connects an intellectual community and contributes to building an R&D ecosystem in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. The Institute reinforces Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s status as a global hub for innovation and contributes to the broader development of its knowledge-based economy.