Ukrainian soldiers are using inexpensive consumer drones from DJI to locate Russian tank and troop columns and then using those coordinates to guide mortars and set up ambushes. To counter this effective tactic, the Russians have used an extended version of DJI’s Aeroscope system, which is a public safety system normally used for locating the drones and their operators. With that information in hand, Russia is targeting the drones as they land near their operators.
Ukrainian forces batter Russian artillery about to get deployed pic.twitter.com/PlYAXWYRuJ
— Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) April 7, 2022
Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said Russian attackers used an extended version of DJI’s AeroScope technology they acquired while operating in Syria. DJI says that Aeroscope is a safety feature that can’t be turned off and is built in to all its recent drones. The system broadcasts the location and tracks other drones up to 35 miles away to help prevent collisions. Sean Hollister of The Verge writes (abridged):
In 21 days of the war, russian troops has already killed 100 Ukrainian children. they are using DJI products in order to navigate their missile. @DJIGlobal are you sure you want to be a partner in these murders? Block your products that are helping russia to kill the Ukrainians! pic.twitter.com/4HJcTXFxoY
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) March 16, 2022
Reading those words, you might imagine DJI is now shipping killer drones to Russia or perhaps that Russia is using DJI drones as spotters for separate missile systems of its own. But that’s not even remotely what Ukraine’s request is about. It’s actually about DJI AeroScope, a system for locating drones and their operators — which Russia is now allegedly using to find Ukrainian drone pilots and wipe them out. […]
That’s likely a non-starter because DJI is a Chinese company, and China is broadly aligned with Russia, not Ukraine — to the point that US officials now believe China might actually provide Russia with assistance instead of staying neutral. DJI is reportedly funded by the Chinese government and has been repeatedly sanctioned by the United States; most recently, the US Treasury named it one of eight “Non-SDN Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies,” and the USA has repeatedly accused it of helping China surveil its Uyghur population with drones.
The news coming out of Ukraine about Russia using the DJI Aeroscope system has caused inquiries to skyrocket at U.S. based drone manufacturer, Teal Drones, parent company Red Cat Holdings. Teal was selected to develop a next-generation small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) designed for surveillance and reconnaissance (S&R) duties, with a focus on autonomous capability, for the U.S. Army. Marc Selinger of Janes Defense writes (abridged):
US-based Teal Drones has received an order for 15 Golden Eagle small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) from a NATO member country that wants to give them to Ukraine, according to Teal parent company Red Cat Holdings.
Although Red Cat did not name the buyer or respond to questions about the planned purchase, it indicated that the order is the first it has received in Europe as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We believe this is the first of many relationships and purchases in the region,” Red Cat CEO Jeff Thompson said on 4 April.
The announcement came less than three weeks after Thompson told analysts that Teal had been “slammed” with inquiries from countries that wanted to provide “thousands” of sUAS to Ukraine to help it fight Russian forces.
“We have been working through all hours of the night” to respond to the interest in the short-range reconnaissance quadcopter, he said in mid-March. “We are working as aggressively as possible to scale our production because of this,” he added.
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