Encryption of Predator video feeds will take time

Air Force document indicates work won’t be completed until 2014

It could take as long as five years before video feeds from Predator drones are fully encrypted and U.S. forces are able to keep enemy forces from intercepting the information, reports Ellen Nakashima in the Washington Post.

U.S. forces uncovered over the past year a number of instances of Iraqi insurgents intercepting video feeds from Predator drones, the Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 17. The insurgents were able to intercept extensive video footage from the unmanned aerial vehicles by using inexpensive, off-the-shelf software.

The Air Force has begun encrypting the UAV fleet, but that work will not be finished until 2014, according to the Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan. The long-range plan released in July outlines the Air Force’s strategy for changes in doctrine, organizational structure, training, equipment, leadership, education, personnel, facilities and policy.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Dec. 18 that there has been no indication that U.S. military operations have been compromised by the intercepted video.

The insurgents were not able to interfere with the signal and command and control capabilities of the Predators but were only able to intercept a broadcast signal, Defense Systems reported.

 

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Jan 7, 2010

“One of the fundamental underlying reasons for delays in finding an encryption solution lies with the size/weight constraints induced by the inherent nature of UAS platforms in general as well as age old problems like bandwidth, latency, etc. That being said, there are products that are potential solutions for the encryption problem that also address size/weight/form factor issues that present strong potential as a short term solution. One such capability is an encryption suite of products called TUC (Tactically Unbreakable COMSEC) built by ACCI (http://advcommcon.com/). Currently FIPS-140-2 certified and based on FPGA chip technology, this solution set has obvious speed, weight, and size advantages that lend itself to a UAS problem set. ACCI has developed several form factors for this encryption capability which address "Data at Rest", Data in Motion", and "Password Security" issues that could have applicability beyond the immediate issue of securing data in transit for the UAS community. I encourage you to examine this product line and to form you own informed opinions with respect to applicability in solving the UAS encryption problem set. And just for the record, I do not have a financial stake in this technology - just a belief that it may be able to solve a critical warfighter issue.”

Wed, Dec 23, 2009 JC Savannah,Ga

UAVs should have never been deployed anywhere without encryption. Another MAJOR failure of DOD and the Air Force in particular. It is time to get rid of the AF, teh Navy does a better job flying( and they do it in any weather)

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 Mark Underwood

A closer look at technologies to encrypt UAS video signals, including an interview with a key supplier, is discussed on Technorati at http://bit.ly/7sNy9B. -knowlengr

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