A number of people have asked the Sky Hopper team what we will do about security so that operators will not abuse our vehicle’s capabilities. It’s a good question, but one to which we think we have some answers. (We would not be over-cocky on this, we have to innovate here too.)
We see two security issues. The first is abuse through external agents trying to capture, control or otherwise interfere with the vehicle technically. The second, is abuse through mis-use of the vehicle, for example carrying a crate load of grenades and dropping them on a village.
The answer to both is to build in security from day one. In the same way that manned aircraft cockpit doors are now locked and secured and built to a standard, Sky Hoppers will have to have locked cargo, secured operations and be built to a standard that builds in risk management from the start of construction.
Without giving away too many secrets, our approach also involves two other layers of security. The first is within the design of our autonomous systems. While a Sky Hopper will not be sentient, it will be able to self-diagnose to such an extent that it will refuse to fly if it detects that it is being tasked to perform operations that are not conducive to human safety. Artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms that use a full suite of detect and avoid sensing solutions both externally and internally within the vehicle will make this possible.
The second layer involves an encrypted overlayer in communications that requires a Sky Hopper to perform in a way expected of its operators and, probably, the operations administration community. Think of this like a referee in a football match. For as long as the rules of the game are being followed, any amount of diverse play is allowed, but if the rules are being broken, a foul is called and the game stopped.
We foresee every Sky Hopper having a default and secure aero-park to which it will return when its administrating agency demands it, taking control out of the hands of its usual operator. This is no different from any intruder aircraft being asked to follow an interdiction jet fighter to a dispersal airport. The question then arises as to who the interdiction administrators will be. Well, we propose Scotland should be the headquarters of this policing mechanism. Prestwick’s Oceanic air traffic control already looks after trans-Atlantic flights. At root, we are honest and capable, and few in the world would expect a professional Jock to go out of control and support death and mayhem. We’d nut ya … ya bass.
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