The U.S. Department of Transportation recently publicized its effort to further harness blockchain in the world of drones.

"Blockchain technology is being looked on to deliver a framework that can be used by stakeholders in the commercial drone industry," the government agency said in an April 15 report, noting benefits in areas such as security, ID management, conflict management, flight authorization and air traffic management. 

Drones have vast potential

The U.S. Department of Transportation listed a number of use cases for drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems, or UASs. From medical deliveries to military strike capabilities, these robotic air bots can run by themselves, or through remote human intervention. 

"The number and variety of UASs and the diverse operations they are or may be expected to soon be involved in make these aircraft especially suitable to the trust and operational integrity provided by blockchains," the report detailed. 

Blockchain increases trust and tracking

Unmanned aircrafts carry an element of liability, however, as no one is on board these small rigs to ensure their processes. "Blockchain can add trust with the use of policies and protocols," the report said, mentioning a bevy of potential areas in which blockchain might bring added safety, including aircraft communications, tracking and crowded area protocol to name a few.   

"Blockchain has already been used to address some UAS trust and integrity issues," the report said. As authorities can already look into previous drone-related accidents after the fact using flight data recorders, adding blockchain to the equation makes that data more effective and useful.

"A blockchain-based flight recorder would do so in real time and could also allow law enforcement to be proactive instead of reactive," the report noted, adding:

"One company has proposed a blockchain-based black-box UAS system that would enable industry regulators to track and review drone flight data, insurance companies to insure drones based on reliable third-party data, and pilots to ensure compliance with regulators."

In the latter half of 2019, both IBM and Walmart filed drone-related patents involving blockchain, showing a growing interest in the technology's application in the sector.