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Security and Communication Networks
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 1308045, 9 pages
Research Article

Automatic Reverse Engineering of Private Flight Control Protocols of UAVs

College of Electronic Science and Engineering, National University of Defense Technology, Changsha 410073, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Jian Wang

Received 15 March 2017; Revised 14 May 2017; Accepted 29 May 2017; Published 4 July 2017

Academic Editor: Zheng Yan

Copyright © 2017 Ran Ji et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The increasing use of civil unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has the potential to threaten public safety and privacy. Therefore, airspace administrators urgently need an effective method to regulate UAVs. Understanding the meaning and format of UAV flight control commands by automatic protocol reverse-engineering techniques is highly beneficial to UAV regulation. To improve our understanding of the meaning and format of UAV flight control commands, this paper proposes a method to automatically analyze the private flight control protocols of UAVs. First, we classify flight control commands collected from a binary network trace into clusters; then, we analyze the meaning of flight control commands by the accumulated error of each cluster; next, we extract the binary format of commands and infer field semantics in these commands; and finally, we infer the location of the check field in command and the generator polynomial matrix. The proposed approach is validated via experiments on a widely used consumer UAV.