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Work in Progress: Developing Undergraduate Research Experiences in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Cybersecurity

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Computing and Information Technology Division Technical Session 6

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Computing and Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Matthew A. Verleger (He/His/Him) Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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Matthew Verleger is a Professor of Engineering Fundamentals at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. His research interests are focused on using action research methodologies to develop immediate, measurable improvements in classroom instruction and on the development of software tools to enhance engineering education. Dr. Verleger is an active member of ASEE, having served as the founding chair of the Student Division, a Program Chair and a Director for the Educational Research and Methods Division, and the General Chair of the First-Year Division's First-Year Engineering Experience Conference.

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Richard S. Stansbury Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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Dr. Richard S. Stansbury is an associate professor of computer engineering and computer science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. His research interests include unmanned aircraft integration, machine learning, and aviation big data analytics. He is the ERAU lead for the FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, ASSURE.

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Mustafa Ilhan Akbas Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Orcid 16x16

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M. Ilhan Akbas is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He received his PhD degree in Computer Engineering from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Central Florida (UCF). He received his BS and MS degrees at the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Middle East Technical University (METU), Turkey. His research interests include validation and verification of autonomous systems, cyber-physical systems, wireless and mobile computing, vehicular and complex networks.

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Philip Craiger Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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Dr. J. Philip Craiger is an Associate Professor of Cybersecurity in the Department of Security Studies and International Affairs. He is currently serves as a co-PI of the NSF-funded National Cybersecurity Training and Education Center (NCyTE). Philip previously served as Professor in the School of Engineering Technology at Daytona State College, where was the Principal Investigator of the $1.8 million NSF-funded Advanced Cyberforensics Education Consortium. From 2004-2010 he served a dual appointment at the University of Central Florida as the Assistant Director for Digital Evidence at the National Center for Forensic Science, and as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Technology. At UCF Philip was instrumental in developing the first online Master of Science in Digital Forensics in the U.S. Philip started his academic career as an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and holds numerous professional certifications, including Certified Information Systems Security Practitioner (CISSP), and a Certified Cyber Forensics Practitioner (CCFP) from (ISC)2, SANS GIAC Computer Forensics Analyst, and an EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker. His research and teaching interests include sUAS cybersecurity, and general aviation cybersecurity.

Dr. Craiger is a certified NAUI technical SCUBA instructor and instructor trainer (certifies NAUI instructors). He has hundreds of technical dives including cave diving in over 50 caves throughout the U.S. and Mexico, and several cave dives to 300 or more feet.

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During the fall 2020 semester, nine students were recruited to participate in a UAS cybersecurity-focused undergraduate research experience. Three faculty members each identified a small topic area for undergraduate students to pursue. The three areas are:

1. Small UAS (sUAS) Vulnerability and Threat Assessment and Mitigation 2. Effects of Cyber Attacks on Communication in UAS Swarms with Distributed Swarm Control 3. Enhancing Security of Cloud-Connected UAS Services

Students were placed onto teams based on their prior course experiences and the project requirements. Common resources were provided for all students to train them in conducting research. Teams were then tasked with developing a more comprehensive research plan for their specific project and carrying out that plan throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.

Students completed a pre-survey at the start of the project and a mid-project survey shortly after the winter break. The surveys combined project specific skills questions as well as relevant questions from the Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment (URSSA), an NSF-funded assessment tool to measure student gains in research skills.

This work-in-progress paper will describe the broader project, the individual student team projects, the research training materials, and some of the results from the pre- and mid-project surveys. Additional discussion will be had regarding the COVID-related precautions implemented by both the institution and the project teams. The purpose of this paper is to provide an example approach for future undergraduate research programs looking for practical approaches to implementing undergraduate research programs, particularly those in the cybersecurity area.

Verleger, M. A., & Stansbury, R. S., & Akbas, M. I., & Craiger, P. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Developing Undergraduate Research Experiences in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Cybersecurity Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--38140

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