Eagles Advance Aviation Cybersecurity, Backed by $1 Million Federal Grant

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Fifteen Embry-Riddle students are working alongside faculty experts to improve the cybersecurity of wireless aviation communication systems, funded by a federal grant totaling more than $1 million.

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are delivering on a $1,070,000 federally funded project to improve the cybersecurity of wireless aviation communication systems, according to the project’s lead investigator, Dr. Radu Babiceanu.

“These wireless data links should be designed and operated with the required cybersecurity protection,” said Babiceanu, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “This project builds a software tool and a hardware testbed to analyze and improve the cybersecurity protection of these communication pathways.”

Fifteen students — four who are pursuing doctoral degrees, seven master’s students and four undergraduates — have been working on the project alongside faculty experts and engineers. The students are involved in all aspects of the work, from design to client presentations.

“It definitely is a great project-leading and management opportunity to improve our skills,” said one of the doctoral students. The student added that wireless exchange of aviation data has been advancing quickly, but with that progress, “these tools are also contributing to the vulnerabilities and risk of these data links. That is why this project takes into account the safety procedures and systems that will need to be procured to ensure the cybersecurity protection of these sensitive data links.”

Another student said that “aviation cybersecurity is one of the most prominent fields of security and aerospace engineering, and there is still a lot to be done by the research community.”

“What we need to do is come up with a software tool that is able to basically be plugged in and say, this is your new system for determining the risk posed by any type of cybersecurity threats on these types of data links,” Babiceanu said.

Dr. Maj Mirmirani, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and dean of the College of Engineering, emphasized the importance of the project and its suitability for Embry-Riddle.

"Wireless transmission of data is ubiquitous in today’s modern aircraft — for flight control, navigation, avionics, health monitoring, communication and onboard entertainment systems — and presents new risks and vulnerabilities," Mirmirani said. "Our faculty and students are perfectly positioned to lead in this critical area of research."

The project represents the first of a five-year aviation cybersecurity collaboration between Embry-Riddle and federal authorities. Next year’s project will target navigation technologies that have been identified as a national priority, using technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the cybersecurity of air travel, Babiceanu said.

Posted In: Research | Security Intelligence and Safety