Open Access


A Secure Communication Protocol for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Navid Ali Khan1, N. Z. Jhanjhi1,*, Sarfraz Nawaz Brohi2, Abdulwahab Ali Almazroi3, Abdulaleem Ali Almazroi4
1 School of Computer Science and Engineering (SCE), Taylor’s University Lake-side Campus, Subang Jaya, 47500, Malaysia
2 School of Information and Technology, Monash University, Malaysia
3 University of Jeddah, College of Computing and Information Technology at Khulais, Department of Information Technology, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
4 Department of Computer Science, Rafha Community College, Northern Border University, Arar, 91431, Saudi Arabia
* Corresponding Author: N. Z. Jhanjhi. Email:

Computers, Materials & Continua 2022, 70(1), 601-618.

Received 13 April 2021; Accepted 18 May 2021; Issue published 07 September 2021


Mavlink is a lightweight and most widely used open-source communication protocol used for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Multiple UAVs and autopilot systems support it, and it provides bi-directional communication between the UAV and Ground Control Station. The communications contain critical information about the UAV status and basic control commands sent from GCS to UAV and UAV to GCS. In order to increase the transfer speed and efficiency, the Mavlink does not encrypt the messages. As a result, the protocol is vulnerable to various security attacks such as Eavesdropping, GPS Spoofing, and DDoS. In this study, we tackle the problem and secure the Mavlink communication protocol. By leveraging the Mavlink packet’s vulnerabilities, this research work introduces an experiment in which, first, the Mavlink packets are compromised in terms of security requirements based on our threat model. The results show that the protocol is insecure and the attacks carried out are successful. To overcome Mavlink security, an additional security layer is added to encrypt and secure the protocol. An encryption technique is proposed that makes the communication between the UAV and GCS secure. The results show that the Mavlink packets are encrypted using our technique without affecting the performance and efficiency. The results are validated in terms of transfer speed, performance, and efficiency compared to the literature solutions such as MAVSec and benchmarked with the original Mavlink protocol. Our achieved results have significant improvement over the literature and Mavlink in terms of security.


Unmanned aerial vehicles; mavlink protocol; drones security; UAVs communication

Cite This Article

N. Ali Khan, N. Z. Jhanjhi, S. Nawaz Brohi, A. Ali Almazroi and A. Ali Almazroi, "A secure communication protocol for unmanned aerial vehicles," Computers, Materials & Continua, vol. 70, no.1, pp. 601–618, 2022.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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