Vulnerability Analysis of the MAVLink Protocol for Command and Control of Unmanned Aircraft is an Air Force Institute of Technology thesis by Joseph A. Marty.

The MAVLink protocol, an openly accessible point-to-point networking protocol, is utilized for telemetry transmission and command and control functions in various small unmanned aircraft. This study reveals three distinct exploits that target confidentiality, integrity, and availability vulnerabilities in the communication link between an unmanned aerial vehicle and a ground control station, utilizing the MAVLink protocol. These attacks presume access to the configuration settings of the data-link hardware.

Empirical tests conducted through MAVProxy, with the aim of compromising communication between an ArduPilot Mega 2.5 autopilot and the Mission Planner application, provide concrete evidence of the success of all three exploits when MAVLink messages remain unprotected.

A structured methodology is proposed for assessing the expense of securing the MAVLink protocol. This involves gauging network latency, power consumption, and the efficacy of exploits. Experimental data suggests that the standard MAVLink protocol on an ArduPilot Mega 2.5 autopilot, powered by the ATmega2560 processor at 16 MHz and lacking security measures, leads to an average power consumption increase of 0.0105 watts per second. Additionally, it incurs an average extra latency of 0.11 seconds during resource-intensive attacks compared to non-attack conditions.

Publication Date- March 2014

Vulnerability Analysis of the MAVLink Protocol for Command and Control of Unmanned Aircraft contains the following major sections:

  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methodology
  • Experimental Configuration
  • Analysis
  • Conclusions and Recommendations

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Author- Joseph A. Marty

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