Encryption

DARPA Hackfest seeks innovators for software radio, drone integration

Registration closes at the end of this week for DARPA’s 2017 Bay Area Hackfest, which will run from November 13th to 17th of this year. Its focus will be on software defined radio and the challenges of operating unmanned aircraft in a hostile electromagnetic environment.

The Hackfest mission recognizes the trend toward a battlefield internet of things, wirelessly connecting inanimate objects for “smart” communication.

Installing a software radio on an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) will be a key component of Hackfest. The goal is to model how giving drones software radio can help connect them to operational networks, but also how to overcome the security concerns it introduces, according to DARPA statements.

Participant teams “should showcase experience in areas involving these two technologies as well as…continued work in this area either through commercialization of developed technology or through future funding by DARPA,” said a DARPA spokesperson.

Software Defined Radio (SDR), the radio communication technology where the analog conversion processes are performed by software programs, might include a personal computer with an analog-to-digital converter, and an antenna for frequency reception.

The U.S. Armed Forces’ Joint Tactical Radio System relies on SDR technology and uses a standardized software communications architecture. However, software programs and platforms can be vulnerable to hacking and interference.

“Systems are going to get hacked,” according to Kurt Wendelken, Assistant Commander for Enterprise Logistics Engineering at Naval Supply Systems Command. By engaging the talent and open source software of the coder community, DARPA is hoping to gain a better understanding of cyber vulnerabilities and ways to mitigate them.

There will be three aspects to the Hackfest event: the hacker space, the speaker series, and the Hackfest missions, according to the DARPA schedule. The hacker space and speaker series will be open to all participants and will focus on a different theme each day. The themes include SDRs, UAVs, and cyber security.

This is not DARPA’s first time holding a Hackfest. A previous Hackfest took place in Brussels in February and focused on the dilemmas of incidental radio frequencies. The challenge for participants was to try to determine ways to distinguish irrelevant electromagnetic emissions, such as those produced by microwaves, from significant signals in a potentially hostile environment.

The deadline for team registration for the upcoming Bay Area SDR Hackfest is this Saturday. Special applications must be submitted to participate in the Hackfest Missions and the entire event will take place at the NASA Ames Conference Center in Mountain View, Ca.