As the battle in Ukraine rages on, Starlink satellites are proving to be a vital asset for a Ukrainian drone unit that is assisting in slowing Russia’s progress. The Ukrainian Ground Forces’ Aerorozvidka unit specializes in aerial surveillance and drone warfare. Quadcopter aerial drones with night vision and infrared cameras are their primary weapons, which they deploy to spy on opposing forces and even launch anti-tank explosives.
They claim that all of this work is only feasible because Starlink uses a constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide the war-torn country with dependable Internet. Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister, requested Elon Musk on Twitter in the early days of the Russian invasion whether he might deliver Starlink satellite Internet ground stations to his nation. Musk agreed, and Starlink has been providing Ukraine with dependable Internet ever since.
“We connect the drone squad with our artillery team using Starlink equipment,” an officer from the Aerorozvidka unit told The Times. “If we utilize a drone with thermal vision at night, the drone must connect to the artillery person through Starlink and establish target acquisition.”
Some of the drones are standard commercial drones, but they also feature a number of heavy-duty modules that have been particularly upgraded with high-tech military equipment, such as a reconnaissance gadget that can hover in the air for up to eight hours. “We strike at night, when Russians are sleeping,” said Lieutenant Colonel Yaroslav Honchar, the unit’s leader.
The unit began as a hobbyist group for drone and model plane enthusiasts, but after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, it became an official branch of the Ukrainian army, complete with its own cadre of troops, engineers, software designers, and drone pilots. Despite being briefly dissolved in 2019, the force was reactivated in October 2021 amid growing concerns that Russia was plotting an invasion of the nation.
Aerorozvidka has already claimed some military victories. According to the Guardian, the squad claims to have used drones to find and shoot hundreds of Russian paratroopers hidden near the airfield on the first day of the invasion, helping to thwart a Russian airborne attack on Hostomel airport near Kyiv. It has also launched a series of strikes against Russian convoys on their way to the city, shattering the procession into smaller parts. Honchar told the Guardian, “We’re like a colony of bees.” “A single bee is little, but a swarm of a thousand may overwhelm a powerful force.” We’re like bees, except we’re only awake at night.”