US drones turned over by Russian hackers

orvillecopter-bart-jansen-cat-droneWhile the US has spent a fortune on drone technology, that gear has never actually had to stand up to an opponent that can fight back.

The situation is a bit like the days of the British colonial wars where the prerequisite of a campaign was that the enemy should under no circumstances carry guns. Drones can buzz around blowing up who they like safe in the knowledge that the Iraqis, Isis or Afghans have not got anything to stop them.

According to a new Reuters report  all that is coming unstuck in the Ukraine which has spent a fortune on US drone technology only to find itself deployed against the Russians who know how to take it out.

Millions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-supplied drones that Kiev had hoped would help in its war against Russian-backed separatists have proven ineffective against jamming and hacking.

The 72 Raven RQ-11B Analog mini-drones were so disappointing following their arrival this summer that Natan Chazin, an advisor to Ukraine’s military with deep knowledge of the country’s drone programme, said if it were up to him, he would send them back to the US.

He said that it was a wrong decision to deploy the AeroVironment drones in the Ukraine conflict where the separatists have their own Russian made high tech gear which can intercept and jam their video feeds and data.

For some reason the drones use an analogue signal which means that the the command channels and data are not protected from interception and suppression.

The US itself is a bit spooked.  It had convinced itself since the Cold War was over that the Russians could not technologically match it. Arrogantly it assumed it was the masters of electronic warfare only to discover that Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities were far more sophisticated than thought.

The U.S. Army told Reuters it still uses Ravens but has upgraded them to digital versions, but the Ukrainians apparently can’t have these. One of the US officials cautioned about limitations on America’s ability to export drones that can evade Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities.  The US is still smarting from IS capturing shedloads of its gear from the Iraqis.

The Ukrainians have found the older tech so useless that the do not use them in the front lines and are mostly in storage.

This was because they allowed the enemy to see Ukrainian military positions and, when it wanted, easily take them down. Their battery life was too short to be useful at gaining intelligence on artillery positions, he said. Meanwhile it is continuing the build its own drones from commercially available tech.