Purdue University Graduate School
WEI_CHENG_HSU_Thesis_v6.pdf (26.44 MB)

Lightweight Cyberattack Intrusion Detection System for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles using Recurrent Neural Networks

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posted on 2021-07-30, 16:20 authored by Wei-Cheng HsuWei-Cheng Hsu
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have gained more attention in recent years because of their ability to execute various missions. However, recent works have identified vulnerabilities in UAV systems that make them more readily prone to cyberattacks. In this work, the vulnerabilities in the communication channel between the UAV and ground control station are exploited to implement cyberattacks, specifically, the denial of service and false data injection attacks. Unlike other related studies that implemented attacks in simulations, we demonstrate the actual implementation of these attacks on a Holybro S500 quadrotor with PX4 autopilot firmware and MAVLink communication protocol.

The goal was to create a lightweight intrusion detection system (IDS) that leverages recurrent neural networks (RNNs) to accurately detect cyberattacks, even when implemented on a resource-constrained platform. Different types of RNNs, including simple RNNs, long short-term memory, gated recurrent units, and simple recurrent units, were trained and tested on actual experimental data. A recursive feature elimination approach was carried out on selected features to remove redundant features and to create a lighter RNN IDS model. We also studied the resource consumption of these RNNs on an Arduino Uno board, the lowest-cost companion computer that can be implemented with PX4 autopilot firmware and Pixhawk autopilot boards. The results show that a simple RNN has the best accuracy while also satisfying the constraints of the selected computer.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Inseok Hwang

Additional Committee Member 2

Dengfeng Sun

Additional Committee Member 3

James Goppert