Cyber Secure Backbone for Autonomous Vehicles
Navy SBIR 2019.1 - Topic N191-037
ONR - Ms. Lore-Anne Ponirakis -
Opens: January 8, 2019 - Closes: February 6, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Cyber Secure Backbone for Autonomous Vehicles


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Electronics, Ground/Sea Vehicles

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Tactically Enabled Reconnaissance Node

OBJECTIVE: Create technology to accelerate the pace, security, and quality of autonomous vehicle research as well as the deployment of Groups 1 and 2 Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs less than 55 lbs.).

DESCRIPTION: The technology derived from this SBIR topic will enable rapid deployment and validation of novel flight control effectors and algorithms designed for the most challenging operations. It will also serve as an integrated avionics backbone for UAVs with high-performance control systems, sensors and cyber-secure command and control. Warfare centers, laboratories, and academia conducting air vehicle research as well as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) developing platforms will all be able to exploit the common software development environment, simulation architecture, component models, communication links, processors, sensors, and actuators. The suite of domestically produced, integrated hardware and software will include well-architected, publishable, non-proprietary Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to facilitate the rapid integration of sensors, actuators, peripheral equipment and accessories. The system will include organic, military-grade cyber security hardware and software. Future UAVs deployed with this backbone will benefit from a greatly improved security posture by eliminating existing vulnerabilities such as channels for spyware and malware. This approach is the first step in building a larger infrastructure for distributed maritime operations with organic security, networked sensors, communications, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

The backbone developed by this SBIR topic will consist of modular hardware and software components necessary for manufacturing autonomous vehicles. The hardware will utilize domestically sourced components, including central processing units (CPUs), data acquisition, and transceivers. The software stack will be designed around the hardware with modules to support a wide array of input/output types. The system will support standards for common communication protocols (e.g., RS422, RS485, CAN, UDP), including encryption layers for both communications and data storage. Anti-tamper features will be included. Computational capability will be extensible with Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) modules. Other modules will include analog to digital converters, digital to analogue converters, actuators, and sensors. An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) will tie all of the embedded software modules and hardware components together in a manner that will allow control algorithms to be graphically designed, simulated, and deployed to the target hardware. The Integrated Development Environment (IED) will support graphical programming capabilities and automated generation of embedded code. The IDE will enable simulations of algorithms and associated physical systems to predict the performance of real-time embedded code.
• Cyber secure embedded software and hardware
• High-performance actuators
• Flight control sensors
• Open architecture
• Autonomous vehicles
• Rapid prototyping, development, and certification (NIST Handbook 162, NIST SP 800-171, DFARS Clause 252.204-7012, and/or FAR Clause 52.204-21)

PHASE I: Develop a functional description of all hardware and software components, including CPUs, actuators, and sensors. Identify electrical and mechanical interfaces, backplane architecture, operating system, and physical requirements. Develop a baseline design for the system leveraging domestic commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components with verifiable pedigree. Define requirements for additional components that need to be developed (e.g., actuators). Breadboard the baseline avionics system. Design a ground control system, including hardware and software to handle command and control, real-time displays, data recording, and flight testing. Develop a Phase II plan.

PHASE II: Develop additional modules sufficient for an operational family of Groups 1 and 2 UAVs. Provide expansion modules to support capabilities such as FPGA modules, video, and communications. Demonstrate traceability to DoD cyber security standards for the hardware and software. Design ruggedized packaging for the hardware components. Develop modular, parameterized simulation models of the hardware and software components, including sensor, actuators, processors, and filters.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Optimize the designs to reduce size, weight and power. Conduct component level environmental testing to verify robustness. Develop a testbed unmanned air vehicle to demonstrate the following:
1. Simulation environment to design a UAV around the avionic backbone
2. Seamless integration of expansion modules
3. Rapid deployment of embedded software for flight control and autonomous operations
4. Flight test validation of the hardware and software components

Examples of dual use include commercial and civilian applications for network-connected vehicles, ranging from internet-connected automobiles to drones.


1. Mortimer, Gary. “US – DoD pulls the plug on COTS drones.” [Memorandum on “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities” that banned “purchases of COTS UAS for operational use until the DoD develops a strategy to adequately assess and mitigate the risks associated with their use.”] sUAS News, June 7, 2018.

2. Kuchar, R. O. and Looye, G. H. N. “A Rapid-prototyping process for Flight Control Algorithms for Use in over-all Aircraft Design.” German Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute of System Dynamics and Control, 2018 AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, 8-12 January 2018, Kissimmee, Florida.

3. Goppert, J., Shull, A., Sathyamoorthy, N., Liu, W., Hwang, I., and Aldridge, H. “Software/Hardware-in-the-Loop Analysis of Cyberattacks on Unmanned Aerial Systems.” Journal of Aerospace Information Systems, May, Vol. 11, No. 5: pp. 337-343.

KEYWORDS: UAV; UAS; Flight Control; Rapid Prototyping; Embedded Software; Autonomous Vehicles


Brian Holm-Hansen




Michael Qin




These Navy Topics are part of the overall DoD 2019.1 SBIR BAA. The DoD issued its 2019.1 BAA SBIR pre-release on November 28, 2018, which opens to receive proposals on January 8, 2019, and closes February 6, 2019 at 8:00 PM ET.

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