A report on how a team of students HIJACKED a drone in midair - all for a "$1,000 bet with
U.S. government"

Not sure if this has been posted here yet, but I was reading the full report here which reminded me of the other blog posts about the drones which had been tricked "spoofed" into landing / crashing in the wrong part of the world posted a while back here on DIYD, I guess if these guys could do it on $1000, then there is a real chance that the others were taken down in the same way, the budget might just have been a little bigger than a $1000 ........







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Comment by MarcS on June 30, 2012 at 8:02am

Nothing too new... You just can not rely on GPS. Be it jamming, spoofing or just bad constellation.

For the hobby flyers no big deal, go to manual :-)

All others should really think about additional means of localisation. Optical, Beacons, Radar, Laser to name a few. GPS ist just too easy and convinient to use :-(

Sad thing is that these "news" give regulators more arguments of blocking UAS from flying even longer...

Comment by Rory Paul on June 30, 2012 at 9:25am

The problem is the public do not have the ability or the desire to understand the details here. All they see is the headline "drone hacked" and assume that this means a Predator with a load of Hellfire missiles when in actuality it was a very localized GPS spoofing. Everybody now screams that drones are vulnerable but to the same extent is your GPS unit in your car, your auto steer on your combine etc etc. The real story here is that GPS can be interfered something sophisticated car thieves have been doing for a while.    

Comment by Gary Mortimer on June 30, 2012 at 10:00am

Hopefully standby for the real story, the pilot of the said UAS has contacted me and wants to put the record straight. It cost alot more than $1000 apparently and did not happen in that stadium!

Comment by MarcS on June 30, 2012 at 10:04am

How about taking the news and knowledge and turning it around for good?

Headline:"Small drone able to detect GPS spoofing and jamming, help for all GPS users"

Let a small UAS fly a route or hover over given points with the help of an additional localisation (choose one of the above mentioned) and check if GPS deviates from the expected coordinates. Or even add GPS signal analyzing. Now you can help all the others relying on GPS...

Comment by Gary Mortimer on June 30, 2012 at 10:16am

BAE are busy working on a system that uses all known RF sources to check position against, cell phone towers, TV stations ILS, NDB VOR  etc etc etc it can even work out if the GPS is being spoofed and correct. Can't remember the name off the top of my head. So its coming.  GPS was never meant to be a sole nav aid.

Went off and found it, NAVSOP


Lots of Google goodness about it out there.

Comment by MarcS on June 30, 2012 at 10:23am

Yes, I guess the "big ones" are working on that, they just have to. My saying was just to bring something to the news about small UAS that is not a Tacocopter joke or shows a flying cat... And has no privacy problems like everything involving cameras has...

Comment by Carl La France on July 1, 2012 at 4:36am

Before GPS was invented we used VOR DME  and TACAN (Tactical AIR Navigation) The Military's own navigation system with their own frequencies (and they still have it and it still works!)  and Loran . GPS was considered a Joke!  GPS was never considered the only or reliable way to navigate the plane .In areas of sparse coverage and you are cruising at 500 kts the GPS falls out what are you suppose to do? Panic?

Comment by Skydog222 on July 1, 2012 at 9:35am

Wow, this story is out of control!  I have been reading story after story of reporters skewing the facts and making false statements that were taken from an already skewed reporting of what took place. 


The media latched on to what they wanted to hear and twisted the story for the effect they wanted to get (which for some reason is always putting UAV’s in a bad light).  The results of this test only showed that the concept of someone spoofing GPS is plausible.  It does not mean that the command and control link was hacked to allow total control of the vehicle.  It did not even allow them to move the vehicle where they wanted, it only showed that they could modify the position of a hovering UAV while in flight, not command it.  That same effect could be obtained by jamming the GPS as well (although the direction of the deviation would not be predictable in a jamming scenario).  And yes, it took a lot more than $1000 in parts to produce these results.  The effects of this spoofing were very localized and actually very difficult to produce without modifying the setup to allow it to happen.   


It was a significant success to show that GPS spoofing is something we have to work on protecting our UAV’s from in the future.  The results from is test did show that it is very unlikely that this could happen to a vehicle that is flying tens of thousands of feet in the air and especially not to one that is using an encrypted GPS system like most military UAV’s have (at least the larger UAV’s).   It also showed that the effects of the spoofing are not good enough to control the vehicle in a predictable enough manor that would allow for any kind of precise control of that vehicle (the type of control required to fly a vehicle to the ground and land it).


The test that was conducted was a great success, but the conclusions drawn from this test have been blown out of proportion by the media.  Unfortunately the damage is done and the public now thinks someone can take control of a Reaper and fly down main street blowing things up.  Very unfortunate and sad that the media has decided to go to war on private use UAV’s in the US.  I hope we can educate the public in the near future on the benefits of UAV’s and get rid of this perception that anything that has a computer on board is acting on its own and is out to get them.    

Comment by Chad Frazer on July 1, 2012 at 12:42pm

If anything could delay or stop UAVs from going "public" this would be it.  The GPS signal was put into practice at a time when all it was was a signal, not a primary driver for huge vehicles.  GPS is probably going to go encrypted.  If you want to make money, get rich etc then solve this problem.

What is needed is a way for each company to control their own encryption or perhaps make a company pool that subscribe to an encryption service.  I'm telling ya, there is a gold mine here.

Comment by MarcS on July 1, 2012 at 1:12pm

Chad, GPS was built as a military system and this use of it is encrypted... The civilian L1 is not going to change...

The European Galileo system will contain several levels of accuracy and protection you can get by paying money. But have a look at the cost and time delays in that attempt...

But again, relying on a satellite navigation system will in most cases not be enough. It´s just too good when it works compared to the alternatives :-(


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