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5 December 2013

Zombie drone flies around, hijacks other drones, creates zombie drone horde

A programmer has rigged up a quadrocopter drone to go around in search of others to hijack, turning them into identical "zombies".

By Ian Steadman

It’s not quite the Walking Dead, but it’s still pretty cool – a programmer has figured out a way of programming a drone to hunt down and reprogram other drones, creating, in effect, a horde of flying zombies.

Samy Kamkar – who some people may remember as the guy who broke MySpace in 2005 with a worm that let him add more than a million friends to his profile – wrote a speculative blog post this week about Amazon’s drone delivery PR stunt, wondering “how fun would it be to take over drones, carrying Amazon packages…or take over any other drones, and make them my little zombie drones”.

The result is SkyJack. It’s targeted at Parrot AR.Drones, one of the most popular models from one of the main domestic drone manufacturers, small quadrocopters that can be controlled with a program on a computer or smartphone. Kamkar wrote a program on his Raspberry Pi that searches for any Parrot drones within Wi-Fi range, forcibly disconnecting them from their operator and hijacking them. It can tell which Wi-Fi addresses are those of other drones as Parrot, like every manufacturer of technology with Wi-Fi in it, has a whole block that it’s reserved for its products.

The original zombie drone becomes the new controller of the drone, and it tells it to go out and search for even more drones to infect. Here’s a video with Kamkar showing it off:

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Of course, we don’t live in a world where there are so many drones flying around that you could imagine such a program spreading very far. There’s not a lot you can do with a zombie horde of drones, either – they can’t carry much (maybe 400g each) and it’s not like they can do something useful like infect humans.

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This is just a cool trick, but if Amazon wants to actually do package deliveries by drones – and there are many, many reasons why that won’t happen any time soon – it’s going to need to make sure its delivery machines are secure.

It wouldn’t hurt to make them bullet-proof, either.