Petition against FLARM decision to encrypt the communication protocol
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Dear Mr. Rothacher,
with this letter we intend to make you aware of our deep dissatisfaction with the decision taken by FLARM to encrypt, once more, the communication protocol of their air traffic alert system, making it thus invisible to similar systems produced by other manufacturers and vice-versa. We credit FLARM of having introduced a fundamental innovation in our sport and of having improved the flight safety.
However for this very same reason we would have expected FLARM to act accordingly. In light of the firm’s choice and attitude with respect to this matter, it rather seems to us that FLARM is motivated by commercial reasoning whereas the aspect of safety is of secondary importance.
In fact, although the great majority of gliders are equipped with a FLARM alert system, to date DSX systems are also flying in a large enough number to raise a safety issue.
We believe that encrypting the communication protocol is a practice that protects a monopoly position in a market, as FLARM in fact does, however this is against safety that should be an important concern for Flarm.
Considering this matter from a technical standpoint, we want to stress the point that the execution of encrypting/decrypting routines within a software execution, even when based on fast algorithms such as the TEA or its successors (XTEA, XXTEA), of the same type implemented by FLARM, introduces a data processing lag that adds up to the computational delay of the alert algorithm itself. Such a lag might add up to a significant value in heavy air traffic situations, where the system must cope with decrypting and processing of a high number of incoming signals as well as encrypting and sending its own signal. We do not agree with a choice that can possibly limit and perhaps impair the effectiveness of an air-traffic alert system.
For all the above reasons we consider that the decision taken by some gliding clubs and institutions to make the FLARM system compulsory was a decision:
- Against flight safety, which should be instead paramount
- which was unfair as it further defends the monopoly privilege of FLARM and by doing so it in fact precludes the possibility to design, manufacture and sell a similar system to anyone who may want to, excluding the possibility of improving previously available systems
- which was unfair to those pilots who chose to buy a non-FLARM system, having recognized in that interesting features not offered by a FLARM system.
In light of all the above we ask the recipients of this petition to:
- join our disapproval by sygning the petition on the platform www.change.org ;
- require FLARM to provide a new release of their firmware operating no encryption of the data transmission;
- require FLARM to publish the data transmission/reception protocol
- require the concerned clubs and institutions to remove the obligation of the FLARM air-traffic alert system, and replace it with the obligation of an air-traffic alert system available on the market, provided that it operates according to the above public protocol.
For all the above reasons
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