Cybersecurity attacks and data breaches continue to affect industries around the world. Organizations are tirelessly working to develop strategic plans that provide more efficient and secure systems for managing data. Increasingly, blockchain technology is being utilized across several industries to provide a more transparent and encrypted way to store data and transactions. Now, blockchain is finding its way to the aviation industry. Following the announcement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to transition to a new air surveillance system, NASA has turned to blockchain to keep aircraft flight data private and secure.

Blockchain technology emerged to the mainstream market in 2009 to support bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency. Soon after, users quickly realized bitcoin was just one application of blockchain, and that the foundation of the technology could be adapted to several other industries. Put simply; blockchain is an online ledger used for storing data. Data is stored in blocks which can not be altered due to cryptography, which links data to earlier blocks. This increased capability of providing a secure, encrypted way to store information, contracts, and transactions is just one of the many reasons businesses are turning toward blockchain.

On January 11, NASA published a proposal to use blockchain for air traffic management. The proposal comes in response to the anticipated Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system that the FAA expects to go live in 2020. NASA computer engineer, Ronald Reisman, believes blockchain can be used to provide safe and secure communication between agents and reduce the risk of attackers. The concern with ADS-B is that the surveillance technology, which can determine the positions and flight patterns of aircraft, is easily trackable and subject to spoofing, or reports of false aircraft position.

Reisman says: “The system proposes to leverage an industrial-strength open-source enterprise-blockchain framework called Hyperledger Fabric to demonstrate potential solutions to vexing technical issues that threaten the adoption of ADS-B by Military, Corporate, and other aircraft operators who do not want their operations and movements discernible by the general public.”

NASA isn’t the first in the industry to look towards blockchain technology to improve services. Honeywell recently launched an e-commerce platform, using blockchain to secure transactions between the buyer and seller. The platform, called GoDirect Trade, is designed to facilitate online retail of aircraft parts. Airlines and aviation consumers can easily track their purchases and can trust they are receiving authentic parts accompanied by photos and required documentation. The platform offers a sense of trust and transparency that buyers are getting the best prices and the confidence of making the right purchase.