According to recent documents made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) IBM has applied for a patent for a system that would use distributed ledger technology to address privacy and security concerns associated with the increasing usage of drones in both commercial and recreational applications. In the application for this patent, IBM’s authors describe how a blockchain ledger could be used to store data associated with drone flights particularly when a security risk is considered to be relatively high to help airspace controllers and regulators can supervise the increasing number of drones that are now in the skies. The blocks may include a variety of different data points related to the drone’s flight patterns, including its location, manufacturer and model number, any erratic behavior, weather conditions and proximity to restricted zones.

Under IBM’s proposed blockchain software system, the permissioned blockchain would include variable block times that change in response to environmental triggers. On the other hand, a drone carrying emergency medical supplies may be granted special permission to operate in restricted airspace since regulators can discern from blockchain data that it has authorized to do so.

IBM is not the only company looking into blockchain as a solution to the problems with the increased number of drones in the national airspace. USPTO published a patent application recently from Walmart as well which seeks to use blockchain technology to secure packages throughout a supply chain consisting of robots and autonomous vehicles.