There is an elite unit of drone pilots in Ukraine called Aerorozvidka. It comprises, according to the Times, about fifty teams and terrifies Russian armies because it attacks at night, when men are sleeping, falsely protected by darkness.
If these units are so formidable, it’s thanks in part to Elon Musk and Starlink, his constellation of satellite internet providers, which make it possible to overcome network deficiencies 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 for his nation.
@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars – Russia tries to occupy Ukraine! As your rockets land successfully from space – Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civilians! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and ask sane Russians to stand up.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 26, 2022
The plea was heeded by Musk who, when not challenging Vladimir Putin to single combat on Twitter, can apparently prove himself to be an effective leader. A few days later, he explained that his network was already available in Ukraine and, above all, he announced the mass deployment of reception stations in the country.
A new batch of Starlink stations! While Russia is blocking Internet access, Ukraine is becoming more open to the entire world. Ukraine is the truth. The truth always wins. Thanks, @elonmuskthe Government of Poland and Orlen. pic.twitter.com/TP0kpn3rPS
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) March 18, 2022
“The connection quality is excellent”Mykhailo Fedorov told the Washington Post in an interview given through a connection provided by Starlink. “We use thousands, something like thousands of these terminals, and more arrive every day.”
Questions quickly arose about the security issues these dishes could pose by becoming very visible military targets, with Elon Musk himself asking that his terminals only be turned on occasionally. However, it seems that the connection they provide is fatal for the Russians.
To function, the drones used by the Ukrainian Aerorozvidka need a solid and stable connection to the network, which Starlink provides when the rest, in a country where heroic telecommunications agents, however, work miracles, no longer work. 🇧🇷
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 launching their own ammunition. These machines are used, at night, against command installations or sleeping 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 the target acquisition”explains to The Times Yaroslav Honchar, head of Aerorozvidka. “We attack at night, when the Russians are sleeping”he said too.
Russian troops are static when night falls, he explains to the British newspaper. Fear of traditional Ukrainian artillery leads them to hide their vehicles even in the middle of villages, between houses, thinking that a traditional cannon will not risk aiming at them, under penalty of hitting civilians with its shot.
Piloted by elite soldiers, Aerorozvidka’s drones are another matter. They can, with their own bombs or via remote artillery, hit Russian vehicles with pinpoint accuracy.
“We specifically look for the most important vehicle in a convoy and hit it, and we can do that with minimal collateral damage.describes the Ukrainian military. Even in villages it is possible. You can get much closer at night.”
Aerorozvidka takes care “priority targets”: according to the Times, dozens of them were killed this way. In the apparent stillness of the night and thanks in part to Elon Musk – and to a constellation of satellites whose bets now go far beyond simply connecting to Netflix in rural areas.