SpaceX bars Kyiv from using Starlink technology for drone control. The company has allowed Ukrainian companies to use the technology for communications satellites. But to access the satellite’s range and payload capacity, companies must buy equipment from SpaceX. Kyiv has been trying to use its own tech for monitoring and controlling drones in urban areas where a civil war broke out in April 2018.
SpaceX bars Kyiv from using Starlink technology for drone control.
SpaceX is a space exploration company owned by Elon Musk, who also founded Tesla and SpaceX. The company has developed a satellite network called Starlink that will consist of millions of low-Earth orbit satellites that can provide wireless internet access to remote communities around the world.
In January 2019, Ukrainian companies were allowed to use Starlink technology for communications satellites after being approved by SpaceX.
The company, however, has allowed Ukrainian companies to use the technology for communications satellites only but not for war such as remote control drones used in their war against Russa.
But to access the satellite’s range and payload capacity, companies must buy equipment from SpaceX. That means Kyiv is trying to make its own tech—and has been doing so for several years now.
Kyiv wants the ability to control its drone fleet in a war zone, which would make them more efficient than using Starlink-enabled drones. But while they’re working on their own solution, SpaceX won’t allow Kyiv access unless they pay $100 million per year in licensing fees (which amounts to an enormous sum).
Kyiv has been trying to use its own tech for monitoring and controlling drones in urban areas where civil war broke out in April 2018.
In the past, Ukraine had been using Starlink satellites, but now that SpaceX has blocked access to those satellites because they were being used by foreign governments (e.g., Russia), Kyiv will have no choice but to turn back on its own system.
Ukraine’s military is already using Starlink to track enemy drones only a few miles away.
Ukraine’s military is already using Starlink to track enemy drones only a few miles away. The technology is being used to track the location of enemy drones, but not to control them.
The Starlink system uses radio frequencies and satellites in place of traditional radio signals or Wi-Fi hotspots that could allow hackers to intercept data from military bases, according to Reuters.
Ukraine has been one of the most active countries trying out new technologies for its armed forces because it sees itself as an underdog fighting against Russia—a country with which it shares an anti-US worldview and has had tense relations since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine after mass protests following Moscow’s annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia Georgia regions broke out across Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti).
SpaceX has been developing the Starlink constellation for years, and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue to build out its network. It’ll be interesting to see whether Kyiv or any other countries can develop their own satellite networks in order to control drones without using SpaceX’s proprietary technology. In the meantime, though, Ukraine might have some work ahead of them if they want consistent access to high-quality military communication without having to buy equipment from Elon Musk himself.