Unmanned Systems Technology 022 | XOcean XO-450 l Radar systems l Space vehicles insight l Small Robot l BMPower FCPS l Prismatic HALE UAV l InterDrone 2018 show report l UpVision l Navigation systems

98 PS | UAVs and blockchain technology A s reported in Platform One this issue, IBM wants to use blockchain cryptographic technology to record and secure UAV data comms (writes Peter Donaldson). Blockchain needs a lot of computing power to solve the cryptographic algorithms on which its security depends, so it’s very power-hungry. Its best known application, processing Bitcoin transactions, consumes almost as much electrical power as the Republic of Ireland, according to a 2014 study by the Hamilton Institute in the National University of Ireland Maynooth. Independent confirmation of that came in May 2018 in a study by Alex de Vries, a data consultant and blockchain specialist with accountancy firm PwC. He wrote, “The Bitcoin network can be estimated currently to consume at least 2.55 GW of electricity, and potentially 7.67 GW in the future, making it comparable with countries such as Ireland (3.1 GW) and Austria (8.2 GW).” “With the Bitcoin network processing just 200,000 transactions per day, that means the average electricity consumed per transaction is at least 300 kWh, and could exceed 900 kWh per transaction by the end of 2018.” While it was invented for crypto- currencies, many more uses are now being proposed for blockchain technology, from finance to the Internet of Things (IoT), including IP-addressable unmanned vehicles. However, not all applications need to be as profligate with power as crypto-currencies, so UAV operators with an environmental conscience should not be too concerned about becoming reliant on such an energy hog. Bitcoin’s energy consumption is driven by its originators’ desire to maintain the crypto-currency’s value in the face of the growing processing power applied to it by the individuals and companies involved in processing the transactions – collectively known as miners (the term also applies to the dedicated computer equipment they use). Miners are rewarded with newly minted Bitcoins when they complete blocks of transactions, and with transaction fees. Given the growing miner population and Moore’s Law of the expansion of computing power though, this consumption could soon get out of hand, so Bitcoin aims to maintain a block creation rate of once every 10 minutes. So, when miners add more computing power to the network, Bitcoin increases the difficulty of the mathematical operations required, recalculating the difficulty every 2016 blocks. Ultimately, Bitcoin intends to limit the number of coins created to avoid inflation, but once all of them have been created, miners can continue to earn transaction fees. In the run-up to that, however, there is still a computing horsepower race going on. It started with commodity microprocessor chips before moving on to GPUs and then FPGAs, and finally to ASICs built specially to do the necessary cryptographic calculations. Top of the heap at the moment is the Bitmain Antminer S9, which is said to be capable of calculating 14 trillion hashes per second (Th/s), although it could be knocked off its perch by the upcoming Insillicon Terminator 3 and its anticipated 43 Th/s hash rate. Performance like that might be overkill for unmanned vehicle operations, but the industry looks set to benefit greatly from a technology that is barely a decade old yet is driven by one of the oldest forces in society – greed. Now, here’s a thing “ ” The unmanned vehicle industry looks set to benefit from a technology that is barely a decade old but driven by greed October/November 2018 | Unmanned Systems Technology