Ukraine's special forces have developed new tech that allows drones to fly without GPS, so Russia can't jam them: report

  • Ukraine's special forces have developed new drone tech that Russia can't jam.

  • Drones can now fly and hit targets without GPS or operator input, The Economist reported.

  • Russia and Ukraine are in a drone and electronic warfare arms race.

Ukraine's special forces have developed new software that allows drones to fly without the use of GPS, limiting the impact of Russian jamming.

The software, called Eagle Eyes, allows unmanned drones to travel using sight rather than satellite-based GPS navigation, The Economist reported.

It uses AI to compare live video of the area below the drone to a map made from photos and video that a reconnaissance aircraft previously collected, the report said.

This means that drones can keep flying even if Russia tries to jam them.

The software can also recognize targets, like missile launchers and tanks, and can drop bombs or fly into them without the drone operator needing to give the order, according to The Economist.

Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to NATO and former special representative for Ukraine, told the outlet that the technology could be a big factor in helping Ukraine turn the tide against Russia, but that it will take time to see how effective it is.

ukraine drone
A Ukrainian serviceman launches a drone in northern Ukraine.Kirill Chubotin / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

A commander in a special forces corps called White Eagle, which is helping develop the technology, said the software is already being used widely, and is cheap enough to be used on kamikaze drones: drones that are destroyed on impact, making them ill-suited to expensive upgrades.

A White Eagle captain told The Economist that Russian jamming stations are the primary target, and Russia's S-400 air defense systems the second.

More drones have been used in Russia's invasion of Ukraine than in any other conflict in history.

Both sides use them to conduct reconnaissance and to attack troops and weaponry — all while developing electronic warfare to try to make the other side's drones less effective.

That has led to a new arms race, as both countries try to develop better drones and drone jamming technology.

In May 2023, the Royal United Services Institute, a UK think tank, said that Ukraine could be losing 10,000 drones a month, mostly due to jamming.

Ukrainian soldiers look at a large screen with an aerial view of Bakhmut and a plume of smoke on it
Ukrainian soldiers watch a drone feed from an underground command center.AP Photo/Libkos

James Patton Rogers, a drone expert at the Cornell Brooks Tech Policy Institute, described the situation to Business Insider as "a battle within a battle."

"It's basically a cat and mouse game," Fabian Hinz, a drone warfare expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told BI, with both sides frequently making big technological leaps.

Ukraine has used cheaper, civilian-grade drones for much of the war, but those are particularly vulnerable to electronic warfare, making new and affordable software like Eagle Eyes key.

Ukraine had responded to Russian jamming efforts by building new types of drones and drone software.

This includes a new drone that Mykhailo Fedorov, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for Innovation, Education, Science, and Technology, said late last year had a "powerful GPS antenna" that was resistant to Russian jamming and electronic warfare.

A Ukrainian company also said last year that it had developed drones resistant to Russian jamming technology and delivered the first batch to Ukraine's military.

Read the original article on Business Insider