How Elon Musk’s satellites are helping Ukrainian drones to destroy Russian tanks

ukraine drone tank russian starlink elon musk

Aerorozvidka, a dedicated drone unit within the Ukrainian army, is leveraging Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system to hunt and attack the Russian forces “as they sleep.”

Dozens of “priority targets” including Russian tanks, command trucks, and vehicles carrying electronic equipment have been destroyed in this manner, according to a report in Britain’s oldest daily newspaper, The Times.

“We strike at night, when the Russians sleep,” says Yaroslav Honchar, who’s leading the Ukrainian aerial reconnaissance unit from Kyiv.

The Aerorozvidka unit has a variety of drones at its disposal – right from cheap off-the-shelf ones to thermal drones that can detect human heat signature even at night, and heavy-duty multirotor aircraft that have been customized to drop anti-tank grenades.

The operators are reportedly flying up to 300 drone missions a day to ensure that the Ukrainian army uses its limited supply of bombs efficiently. A specialist in the drone unit explains:

We look specifically for the most valuable truck in the convoy and then we hit it precisely, and we can do it really well with very low collateral damage. Even in the villages, it’s possible. You can get much closer at night.

And this is where the newly available Starlink internet system comes in, helping the Ukrainian troops to stay online even during power outages that have become rampant in the war-torn nation. As an unnamed soldier reveals to 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.

In recent weeks, drones have provided a clear edge to Ukraine’s military in taking out the Russian forces. Accounts of drone use have included small drone owners conducting unspecified reconnaissance missions in Kyiv at the government’s behest, volunteer groups procuring hundreds of sub-250-gram drones to donate to the Ukrainian troops, and commercial drones being weaponized to drop Molotov cocktails on the invading forces.

And as Justin Bronk, a research fellow at UK’s defense and security think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), observes:

The effectiveness so far of the [drones] speaks more to the skill of its Ukrainian operators and the incompetence and operational failures of Russian forces than any particularly unique capabilities of the drone itself.

Read more: What DJI said in response to Ukraine’s request to block Russians

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