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Starlink Satellites Are Helping Ukraine's Drone Unit Halt Russian Advances

author

Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockMar 28 2022, 14:31 UTC
Drones.

The Aerorozvidka unit started off as a club for drone enthusiasts, but it became an official part of the Ukrainian army following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Image credit: Volodymyr Goinyk/Shutterstock.com

As the conflict in Ukraine continues to rage, Starlink satellites are proving to be an indispensable tool for a Ukrainian drone unit that’s helping to impair the Russian advance. 

Aerorozvidka is a unit of the Ukrainian Ground Forces specializing in aerial reconnaissance and drone warfare. Their primary weapons are quadcopter aerial drones armed with night vision and thermal cameras used to spy on enemy units and even drop anti-tank bombs. 

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All of this work, they say, is only made possible thanks to Starlink providing the war-torn country with reliable Internet using a constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit. In the opening days of the Russian invasion, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov asked Elon Musk on Twitter whether he could send Starlink satellite Internet ground stations to their country. Musk obliged, and Starlink has continued to provide Ukraine with reliable Internet since. 

“We use Starlink equipment and connect the drone team with our artillery team,” an officer from the Aerorozvidka unit told The Times.

“If we use a drone with thermal vision at night, the drone must connect through Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition."

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Some of the drones are simply commercially available drones, but they also have a number of heavy-duty modules that have been specially modified with high-tech military equipment, including a reconnaissance device capable of hovering in the air for up to eight hours. 

“We strike at night, when Russians sleep,” added the unit’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Yaroslav Honchar.

The unit started life as a club for drone and model plane enthusiasts, but following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, it became an official part of the Ukrainian army with its own band of soldiers, engineers, software designers, and drone pilots. Although briefly disbanded in 2019, the unit was reinstated in October 2021 amid mounting fears that Russia was planning some kind of offensive into the country. 

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Aerorozvidka has already taken credit for some military success. As per the Guardian, the unit claims to have helped defeat a Russian airborne attack on Hostomel airport near Kyiv in the first day of the invasion by using drones to locate and target hundreds of Russian paratroopers hiding near the airfield. It has also mounted a number of attacks on Russian convoys heading to the capital, fracturing the procession into smaller elements. 

“We are like a hive of bees,” Honchar told the Guardian. “One bee is nothing, but if you are faced with a thousand, it can defeat a big force. We are like bees, but we work at night.”


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