As Russian military forces sleep, an elite Ukrainian drone unit brings out its tanks – using an internet service provided by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
The background: Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, several regions of the country began to experience internet connectivity issuesraising fears that Russia may eventually attempt to disconnect all of Ukraine.
In an attempt to prepare for such a situation, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov reached out to Musk via Twitter on Feb. 26, asking the billionaire entrepreneur to send Starlink satellite internet ground stations to Ukraine.
Musk agreed within hours and on March 20, Fedorov told the Washington Post through a translator that Ukraine “uses thousands, in the area of thousands, of [Starlink] terminals with new shipments arriving every other day.
The strikes: The Times of London has now reported that an elite unit of Ukrainian drone pilots relies on the Starlink service to carry out its missions.
The group is called theAerorozvidkaand it currently conducts around 300 missions a day – ranging from reconnaissance operations to the nighttime dropping of anti-tank grenades on high-priority Russian targets.
“We are using Starlink equipment and connecting the drone team to our artillery team.”
The group has been hailed as one of Ukraine’s most valuable weapons, and it uses Starlink’s satellite internet to ensure that patchy terrestrial internet conductivity doesn’t compromise its missions.
“We are using Starlink equipment and connecting the drone team to our artillery team,” an Aerorozvidka officer told The Times. “If we use a drone with thermal vision at night, the drone must connect via Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition.”
The private sector: While it is important for Aerorozvidka and the rest of the Ukrainian military to have internet access during the Russian invasion, it is also vital for civilians in the country.
“Internet connection is really important here in Ukraine,” Oleg Kurkov, an engineer in Ukraine, told WaPo. “We get a lot of information from social media, from the government and from each other.”
Kurkov had previously bought a Starlink terminal just so he could take it apart and see how the device worked. When he learned that Musk was activating Starlink connectivity in Ukraine, he quickly restored it.
Now, if a Russian attack knocks out his main internet source, he knows he will be able to access the internet through a constellation of satellites in space.
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