Enabling Privacy-Compliant Delivery Drones

Delivery drones hold the promise of revolutionising how goods are transported from vendors to their clients. Companies in various sectors are actively considering the use of delivery drones.

However, drones are typically equipped with a variety of sensors, such as cameras, microphones, GPS, and Lidar. A malicious drone fleet service operator could misuse these sensors to turn delivery drones into flying spies. For example, cameras on delivery drones can be misused to capture video or images of individuals, microphones can be used to record conversations in private homes, and so on.

Researchers in the Department of Computer Science and Automation led by Vinod Ganapathy have now developed “Privaros”, a set of enhancements to the drone software stack, which allows “host airspaces” such as an apartment complex, a university campus, or a city municipality to ensure that “guest” delivery drones visiting the airspace are privacy-compliant. The host airspace decides what privacy policies it wishes to enforce. For example, an apartment complex could require that all images of residents appearing in the video feed captured by the drone be blurred out before the video feed leaves the drone. Or, a city municipality may require that a drone only moves along certain pre-specified drone lanes.

Privaros incorporates new mechanisms into the drone software stack that allow such host-specified policies on board the drone. Trusted hardware on board the drone can be used to prove to the host airspace that the guest drone is in compliance with its policies.

A number of countries are actively developing policies to regulate how drones can be operated. This work shows how Privaros can be integrated with upcoming policy frameworks, such as India’s Digital Sky framework.

This work was featured in an article in Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) News on February 2, 2021. A link to the article: https://cacm.acm.org/news/250268-eyes-on-the-skies


Rakesh Rajan Beck, Abhishek Vijeev, and Vinod Ganapathy (2020), Privaros: A Framework for Privacy-Compliant Delivery Drones, Proceedings of the 2020 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS ’20), Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 181–194.


LAB WEBSITE:  http://www.csa.iisc.ac.in/~vg/cssl