The drone takes off normally and soars skywards. Its four 3D-printed propellers spin in perfect time as it hovers peacefully against a clear sky.
Then suddenly, two minutes into the flight, one of those propeller blades disintegrates.
The machine tries to compensate, but the damage is too great. Seconds later, it’s plummeting to earth. It’s been hacked.
But this hack didn’t happen during the flight. It didn’t involve the drone’s software or communication. This hack took aim at the manufacturing process, introducing defects into the drone’s 3D-printed parts.
Researchers in Israel demonstrated the process as part of an experiment. They used a phishing scam to gain access to design files, and replaced them with their own versions featuring tiny defects – undetectable to the naked eye – that would cause the blade to fail.