One of the highlights of ICAO’s DRONE ENABLE/2 event was the presentation of the Global Aviation Trust Framework. The aim of the framework is to provide a high-level architecture that can help to tackle two of the main challenges faced by aviation today. First, the industry must manage the growth in traffic caused by increased traditional aviation activities and by new entrants, ranging from small drones to rockets. Second, as a corollary to the digitalization of aviation, a collective answer to cybersecurity threats is required if we want to avoid a lack of interoperability between different airspace users (think of identity management, for instance).

The video below provides an overview of the concept. For more details, a draft of the “Global Resilient Aviation Network Concept of Operations” paper is available on the ICAO website. 

In summary, the framework is built upon: the capabilities of a public key infrastructure, internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) addressing, a domain name system (DNS) and information security management systems (p.3). These building blocks have been extensively tested in other industries. IPv6 is the addressing system that powers internet servers and IoT devices all over the world. There are a lot of addresses available (340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 for those who like exact numbers), so it would not be an issue to reserve a subset of those for aviation with enough room to grow for decades. The public key infrastructure provides two key features: it enables secure communication, even on vulnerable networks, and it can be used for managing the identity of any airspace user via digital signatures.

ICAO’s approach is clever. There is no need to reinvent the wheel but there is an immediate need for action. Their vision fits perfectly with GUTMA’s mission of supporting global, interoperable solutions.  We are looking forward to its development and we will actively contribute to the assessment of how it can be applied to the UTM industry.