There is an elite unit of drone pilots in Ukraine, named Aerorozvidka. It comprises, according to the Times, about fifty teams and terrifies the Russian armies because it strikes at night, when the men are sleeping, falsely secured by the darkness.
If these units are so formidable, it is partly thanks to Elon Musk and Starlink, his constellation of satellite internet providers, which makes it possible to overcome the deficiencies of the network in a country at war.
From the first days of the war, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov launched on Twitter an appeal to the serial entrepreneur to provide Starlink stations to his nation.
@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 26, 2022
The plea was heard by Musk who, when he’s not challenging Vladimir Putin to single combat on Twitter, can seemingly prove an effective leader. A few days later, he explained that his network was now available in Ukraine and, above all, announced the mass sending of reception stations in the country.
A new batch of Starlink stations! While Russia is blocking access to the Internet, Ukraine is becoming more open to the entire world. Ukraine is the truth. The truth always wins. Thank you, @elonmuskthe Government of Poland, and Orlen. pic.twitter.com/TP0kpn3rPS
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) March 18, 2022
“Connection quality is excellent”Mykhailo Fedorov told the Washington Post in an interview given via a connection provided by Starlink. “We use thousands, something like thousands of these terminals, and more are arriving every day.”
Questions quickly arose as to the security problems that these dishes could pose by becoming very visible military targets, Elon Musk himself asking that his terminals be turned on only occasionally. Yet it seems that the connection they provide is mostly fatal to Russians.
To function, the drones used by the Ukrainian Aerorozvidka need a solid and stable connection to the network, which Starlink provides them when the rest, in a country where heroic telecom agents nevertheless work miracles, no longer works. .
Robust and rustic octocopters, more advanced models R18 or Punisher, in particular, the devices are equipped with special night vision systems, and are capable of reconnaissance missions for artillery such as dropping their own ammunition. These machines are used, after dark, against dormant command installations or tanks – and against the Russian soldiers who operate them, not much more awake.
“If we use a drone with thermal vision at night, it has to connect via Starlink to the artillery guy and do target acquisition”explains to The Times Yaroslav Honchar, the boss of Aerorozvidka. “We attack at night, when the Russians are sleeping”he also said.
Russian troops are static when night falls, he explains to the British newspaper. The fear of the traditional Ukrainian artillery pushes them to hide their vehicles in the middle of the villages, between the houses, thinking that a traditional cannon will not dare to aim at them, at the risk of hitting the civilians with its fire.
Piloted by elite soldiers, the drones of the Aerorozvidka are quite another matter. They can, with their own bombs or via remote artillery, target Russian vehicles with great precision.
“We specifically seek out the most important vehicle in a convoy and hit it, and we can do that with minimal collateral damagedescribes the Ukrainian military. Even in the villages, it is possible. You can get much closer at night.”
The Aerorozvidka takes care of “priority targets”: according to the Times, dozens of them were killed in this way. In the apparent calm of the night and partly thanks to Elon Musk – and to a satellite constellation whose stakes now go far beyond the simple connection to Netflix in rural areas.