• Gemalto is now part of the Thales Group, find out more.

State-of-the-art cybersecurity for commercial drones

Classified as Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs), commercial drones operate in a variety of applications and remote fields to constantly improve business efficiency. The FAA (US Federal Aviation Administration) forecasts that by 2021, the non-hobbyist fleet will most likely be 10 times larger than it was in 2016. As the use of drones currently expands, cybersecurity concerns are raising and addressed by public authorities, to ensure citizen safety and the security of our skies.

Trusted Remote ID for Drones

Drone security issues have already been reported and include collision risks, drone hacking or privacy concerns to mention but a few.

In the current context, governmental agencies such as the FAA in the US or the European Union Aviation Agency (EASA) are busy preparing new regulations. The first challenge to be addressed is the implementation of a remote identification, or e-identification - stated in the EASA´s U-space programme as one of the foundation services. Remote identification shall ensure that a flying drone is able to provide unique identification attributes to other parties, anytime, allowing its secure authentication.

The Thales DroneConnect solution supports governmental agencies, as it includes a dedicated Trusted Remote ID, providing:

Thales DroneConnect
  • Seamless and secure registration mechanisms for drones and pilots
  • Trusted drone tracking and identification, including high availability communication, cybersecurity and geofencing capabilities

The Thales Trusted Remote ID securely identifies both pilots and drones through expert biometrics, such as facial recognition or liveness detection. The advanced encryption tools that Thales leverage enable the generation and provisioning of unique and diversified digital IDs for each drone. These are securely stored into the roots of drones´ infrastructure, together with pre-defined pilot and mission information, to ensure that drones follow attributed paths of operation.

The Thales DroneConnect Solution

Thales offers a global solution - DroneConnect - to Identify, Connect and Secure drones, and ultimately bring trust to the commercial drone ecosystem. Watch the animation below to learn more:

DroneConnect enables 3 key pillars:

  • Identify Pilots & Drones - Thales Trusted Remote Identification (ID) solution helps identify drones and link them to their registered pilot (as a car license plate would link a car to its registered driver).
  • Connect Drones seamlessly and securely to cellular networks, through Thales IoT connectivity ModuleseSIM as well as the eSIM connectivity management platform. Although the solution works with cellular network, it can also rely on SatCom technology in certain operational context. For Direct Remote Identification, DroneConnect will comply with US and European on-definition specification (such as WiFi or Bluetooth for example).

  • Secure sensitive data inside drones, in the cloud and in motion: Thales HSM-based encryption mechanisms leverage pre-embedded IDs and encryption keys to digitally sign all messages and encrypt the data at all levels of the ecosystem. This ensures that the data is kept away from illegitimate hands and can´t be manipulated on the way to external platforms.   

DroneConnect will create a trusted channel for secure authentication and flight authorization, enabling authorities, users and the general public to trust that:

Every drone in the sky...

  • is authorized to be there
  • is securely tracked and monitored
  • is safe from being hacked
  • leaves a full record of everything it does


DroneConnect also supports many other features, such as:

C2 control link via LTE, Geocasing and Geofencing support, Mission management support (video streamline via LTE, real-time data transfer,...), Private tracking, On-demand connectivity (cellular smart connectivity swap from one network to a second for coverage optimization).

The solution is already used in 2 SESAR programs: USIS and Geosafe.

  • Thales DroneConnect – A Trusted Drone Remote ID Solution

    The DroneConnect module provides a comprehensive solution to identify, connect and secure UAVs. Based on cutting edge cybersecurity mechanisms, it creates a trusted channel for secure authentication and flight authorization.


A variety of Drone Applications

There are many applications where commercial drones can be used. Drone security is required for all of them. In many countries, drone connectivity will be done via GSM networks to Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platforms on the ground. In order to ensure drone control and safe flights, UTM platforms will help manage traffic at low altitudes. UTM platforms can be managed by drone operators, under the supervision of governments or by the civil aviation.​

Drone applications can include:​

Drone Delivery 

Major retailers like Amazon, and transporters such as UPS and DHL see a great deal of potential in drone delivery for dispatching small packages over short distances.

Drone Farming 

​Drones offer a cost-effective way to monitor crops to improve management and yields. Drone cameras and infrared sensors can evaluate crop health, allowing farmers to respond with fertilizer or insecticide treatments.

Drone inspection  

Drones can provide high-quality, real-time visual inspection and thermal readings of power lines, oil and gas pipelines, transmission towers, solar arrays, wind turbines and nuclear installations, allowing inspection teams to remain at a safe distance.

Drone construction 

Drones can provide high-quality, real-time visual inspection of all types of construction including buildings and bridges, keeping inspection teams safe. In addition to this, small drones that can access tricky areas can provide a new level of detail to improve performance.

Public Safety drones 
Public Safety

Public safety drones can provide an aerial view to rescue operations so teams can quickly and safely evaluate emergency situations. They are invaluable for search and rescue teams, firefighting, disaster response efforts, and law enforcement.


Insights from the field

We asked a few experts about their vision of the commercial drone industry and the key elements for a successful commercial roll-out, which includes drone cybersecurity, safety and privacy requirements.​​​

  • What will be the role of commercial drones in the future?

  • What is the future for the commercial drone industry?

  • What will be the role of commercial drones in the future?

  • Commercial Drones

    See how we facilitate pilot identity verification and drone registration, securely and seamlessly. This is the first step for safe and secure flights.

    Watch video

  • commercial drone industry

    Using Mobile Networks to Coordinate Unmanned Aircraft Traffic

    Mobile Network Operators have a key role in supporting unmanned air traffic management for the commercial drone industry. In particular, cellular connectivity is the key enabler for beyond-visual-line of-sight use of commercial drones.

    Find out more with the latest GSMA report
  • http://authoring.gemalto.com/iot/inspired/commercial-drone

    How consumers visualize the drones in 2030?

    Find out more [ PDF - 2.1mb]

​​ ​​​

​​Seven key factors to enable the drone ecosystem

Thales' solutions portfolio creates trust in the commercial drone industry for everyone involved, including drone manufacturers, operators, and public authorities. 

Download the infographic

7 Key factors ​

Drone regulations

All examples above show the need for a strong regulatory framework to secure the use of commercial drones. Drone regulations are being introduced in Europe, while some are  already in effect in the US with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In many countries, some categories of commercial drones will be connected via GSM networks to unmanned traffic management (UTM) platforms, or ground stations. These will be sending and receiving a range of sensitive data including telemetry, flight plan updates, or command and control data.

Those UTM platforms will allow regulations to be implemented to enable safe, secure and efficient low-altitude operations. They cover the full flight lifecycle from before operations, during flight, and after completion for full traceability.

​Drone manufacturers and drone operators need to protect their assets and services, whereas public authorities need to ensure citizen safety and law enforcement. This ecosystem needs trust at every stage, from drone manufacturing and deployment through to flights and post operations.

Gemalto's solutions portfolio creates trust in the commercial industry for everyone involved, including drone manufacturers, operators, and public authorities.

Gemalto solutions allow you to:




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