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posted by hubie on Tuesday January 24, @10:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the probably-voids-the-warranty dept.

Ukraine Might Be Modifying Starlink Dishes to Mount On Drones:

Although many believed the war in Ukraine would be over in mere days, we are closing in on a year of vicious fighting. Early on, Ukraine gained a notable advantage over the Russian invaders: connectivity. Access to SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet has allowed the Ukrainian Army to keep lines of communication open and control drone aircraft. A new report appears to show Ukraine has gotten even more creative with Starlink, modifying one of the dishes to mount it aboard a drone.

[...] KCPN claims the hardware is a high-performance dish, which SpaceX only started providing to Starlink RV customers in December. However, our friends at PCMag believe it's more likely to be a standard Starlink dish. In either case, the antenna has been freed of its plastic housing to make it easier to fit on the drone. The drone also contains a Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer and a CubePilot module for flight control.

With an integrated Starlink dish, the drone would have had internet access anywhere it could see open sky. That would allow it to be controlled from anywhere in the world. It could even supply Wi-Fi access to Ukrainian positions on the ground. However, drone aircraft don't have exceptional battery life even before you start wiring satellite dishes to them — it's unclear how long the autonomous vehicle could have operated. This probably runs afoul of some provision in the end-user license agreement for Starlink's terminals, but Ukraine has bigger problems.


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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Frosty Piss on Tuesday January 24, @11:27PM

    by Frosty Piss (4971) on Tuesday January 24, @11:27PM (#1288452)

    That's going to void the warranty...

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, @12:29AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, @12:29AM (#1288458)

    You could land the drone on some high point, such as the rampart of a bombed-out building, or even perhaps a clearing in an open field. Of course stationary targets like that would draw fire, but if they do you just jump up and start flying it again. If the drone can drop the hot spot in a camouflaged location, all the better. If they're creative enough to get it on there, they're creative enough to find ways to deploy it beyond what I'm thinking off the top of my head, so drone battery life is less of an issue than TFS thinks.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday January 25, @02:06PM (1 child)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @02:06PM (#1288526) Journal
      Or you could make it gas/diesel powered and greatly extend its range and time in air.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, @05:25PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, @05:25PM (#1288558)

        Increased noise and emissions, especially visible exhaust in cold air would make them easier to spot; although I don't know if that would matter since a gas-powered drone could indeed fly high for a long period of time and they're a bitch to shoot down. Just getting the enemy to spend 100s of rounds of ammo before getting in a lucky shot might be worth it. Drone-to-drone "dogfights" have already happened too, but to the best of my knowledge haven't been a huge feature of the war. Drone v. anti-drone arms race is just beginning, and that's fine with me. Unfortunately it's still all about facilitating killing in the end. Would that we could settle all future disputes with a Robot Wars competition.

  • (Score: 2, Touché) by Opportunist on Wednesday January 25, @12:31AM (2 children)

    by Opportunist (5545) on Wednesday January 25, @12:31AM (#1288459)

    Russia thought the war would be over within less than a week. They even issued an invitation to a press conference for the Tuesday after the invasion on Thursday.

    Strangely it was canceled and never rescheduled. Wonder why.

    • (Score: 2) by looorg on Wednesday January 25, @06:03AM (1 child)

      by looorg (578) on Wednesday January 25, @06:03AM (#1288498)

      War-optimism is nothing new tho. At least the public aspect of it. I seem to recall the said thing being said about most wars, it will be over really soon -- home by xmas --- the enemy have/can't/won't put up a fight. Yet they turn into decades long slogs.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by khallow on Wednesday January 25, @06:40AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @06:40AM (#1288500) Journal
        Indeed. It's worth noting that the Russo-Ukraine war is actually almost 9 years old though with low Russian investment before 2022. Where you start it depends on whether you count the annexation of Crimea as the starting point or the rebellion of the Donbas region.

        I think though that Russia is in a rather weak state at present with a high burn rate in Ukraine, unreasonable expectations for the war that are now far from met, no real way to win - just hoping that Ukraine caves soon, a society failing on multiple fronts (economics, demographics, cultural, etc), and a nominally democratic society that won't tolerate decades of war.
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by looorg on Wednesday January 25, @06:01AM (1 child)

    by looorg (578) on Wednesday January 25, @06:01AM (#1288497)

    ... The drone also contains a Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer

    So this is where the stockpile ended up.

    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Wednesday January 25, @02:55PM

      by Freeman (732) on Wednesday January 25, @02:55PM (#1288530) Journal

      It's possible, but more likely that they don't have all that many of them.

      --
      Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
  • (Score: 1) by GloomMower on Wednesday January 25, @03:17PM (3 children)

    by GloomMower (17961) on Wednesday January 25, @03:17PM (#1288537)

    > With an integrated Starlink dish, the drone would have had internet access anywhere it could see open sky.

    I'm not that familiar with how the Starlink dish works, but I thought Starlink needs to change direction to point to the best satellite. Does it adjust that fast that it will adjust while flying and keep connection? They programmed the drone to keep the dish always pointed the same way through it's maneuvers?

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by DannyB on Wednesday January 25, @03:35PM (2 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @03:35PM (#1288541) Journal

      I thought Starlink needs to change direction to point to the best satellite

      The satellites are moving very rapidly. Each one crosses from one horizon to the opposite horizon in a few minutes. A dish tracking a single satellite would be in constant motion and would soon lose that satellite.

      Starlink dishes move to get the best view of the constellation of satellites.

      The Starlink dish is self aligning, and doesn't require you to aim it. It will automatically tilt and spin to achieve the maximum signal from the satellites.Mar 28, 2022

      --
      Scissors come in consumer packaging that cannot be opened without scissors.
      • (Score: 1) by GloomMower on Wednesday January 25, @06:59PM (1 child)

        by GloomMower (17961) on Wednesday January 25, @06:59PM (#1288569)

        What if the drone does a 180 real quick, surely it would loose the constellation. They just don't make sudden movements with the drone? Still doesn't make much sense, might be fun to test a starlink unit.

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday January 25, @07:43PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @07:43PM (#1288582) Journal

          A drone would probably use the "mobile" version of Starlink dish. Sort of like an RV making a sudden turn. But not as slowly as an ocean liner making a sudden turn.

          --
          Scissors come in consumer packaging that cannot be opened without scissors.
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