Samuel Bendett Profile picture
Dec 31, 2022 20 tweets 8 min read Read on X
1/ A THREAD: As 2022 draws to a close, a few words about how technology helped shape and influence the war in Ukraine – specifically, the impact of commercial quadcopters. ImageImageImageImage
2/ Ukraine led this charge as Russia invaded in February 2022, scoring some major successes in key battles against Russian forces, with quadcopters providing crucial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to long-range artillery and MLRS systems.
3/ This capacity enabled Ukraine to better organize and position its forces to meet the invading Russian military. cnet.com/news/ukraine-i…
4/ The pinnacle of this tactic is a Chinese-made DJI Mavic quadcopter – easy to procure, easy to fly/ navigate, it became absolutely indispensable for ISR, target spotting, artillery correction and combat missions like “kamikaze attacks”, dropping small bombs and grenades. ImageImageImageImage
5/ Ukrainian military forces have greater flexibility and independence in making decision based on the data from these quadcopters, a key capability that enabled them to faster react to Russian movements, maneuvers and force-positioning. This is still the case now.
6/ But the Russian military and its allies likewise incorporated the DJI and other quadcopters like Autel into their tactics and force structure. DNR militia expanded its drone training center in 2022 to teach drone operators that fly Mavics and other models. Image
7/ Ukraine has done the same, constantly training its soldiers with the help of the industry, ICT and other volunteers to make their quadcopters more lethal and effective. rferl.org/a/ukraine-dron…
8/ Russian forces have done the same, with the DNR drone center leading the way, along with other significant volunteer-based efforts like "Dronnitsa." The goal: make quadcopter use organic, train the operators and trainers who can quickly teach others how to use such technology. Image
9/ Today, drone-delivered videos are comm on social medial, with lots of content coming from quadcopters. Videos of attacks, tracking the soldiers and vehicles, of strike and bombings are in inseparable part of the Ukraine war narrative, told by Ukrainians and Russians alike.
10/ These DJI and Autel (and other) quadcopters have become so successful when paired with artillery that a Russian top general called DJI Mavic a true symbol of modern warfare, elevating artillery to the pedestal not seen since WW1.
11/ But these commercial products are vulnerable to military-grade countermeasures like electronic warfare, signals interference and different-caliber weapons. Both sides acknowledged that such countermeasures can have a powerful detrimental effect on quadcopter ops.
12/ This led to measures to counter these tactics - building different flight concepts, manipulating software and disengaging from the aeroscope. Ukraine and Russian efforts include hackathons to come up with the best ways to pilot such UAVs in a severely contested environment.
13/ What's in store for Mavic and other quadcopters in 2023? More widespread use, better integration of quadcopters and their operators into combined arms formations and units, and more widespread pilot training. npr.org/2022/08/22/111…
14/ Additional evolution includes building on current group quadcopter use to scaling it up to swarm ops, enabled by machine learning algorithms that recognize targets on the ground. vox.com/2022/9/21/2335…
15/ The DJI will finally see the semblance of competition as Ukrainian and Russian domestic efforts include investing in mass-scale production capacity to deliver thousands of small UAVs and quadcopters to the front. eastrussia.ru/news/drony-dly…
16/ For Russia, the continue dependence on many Chinese-made components will remain a feature in 2023. “Got it on AliExpress” will remain relevant, as customers will look for ready quadcopters solutions and components at online and physical marketplaces. ria.ru/20221201/dron-…
17/ In 2022, Telegram-based informational awareness and fundraising reached unprecedented levels, allowing volunteers to donate specific equipment, materiel and even raise funds for specific drones. Image
18/ As the Russian military seeks to retrain its mobilized force, it will push quadcopter use down to the tactical levels for more advanced tactical ISR. For both sides, targeting the other’s quadcopter operations left-of-launch and during/post- launch will remain a key tactic.
19/ Bottom line - the small quadcopter showed its utility in 2022 and we will see its use become more professionalized by both sides. ImageImageImageImage
20/ Questions for next year: Will national industries finally find a substitute to DJI drones in combat? Can these small quadcopters be battle-hardened to withstand countermeasures? Can their operations become more sophisticated with new technology like AI? Stay tuned… Image

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More from @sambendett

May 12
1/ One of the more relevant relationships to watch in the coming months will be between the incoming Defense Minister Belousov, the re-appointed Prime Minister Mishustin, Deputy Prime Minister Chernyshenko and the Minister of Digital Development Shadaev. All four are...



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2/ ...part of Russia's efforts to develop domestic high-tech ecosystem in the larger sense - Mishustin as a government bureaucrat with ICT background, Belousov as high-tech researcher at the Soviet and later Russian Academy of Sciences and a minister who promoted UAV/drone...
3/...RDT&E, and both Chernyshenko and Shadaev responsible for fast-tracking Russia's AI and digital developments. All four are civilians who had/still have a massive an uphill battle to implement the ICT and high-tech developments in the midst of war, sanctions, and...
Read 20 tweets
May 9
1/ QUICK TAKE on Putin's statements made today, on Mya 9, in a meeting with Russian military officers who are commanding units in Ukraine. Normally, I would do a quick thread about the annual Russian military parade in Moscow - but this year, there as nothing interesting there. Image
2/ Rather, this thread is about statements made AT a meeting with Putin. Colonel Malakhov, commander of the 24th Separate Guards Special Forces Brigade, said that Russian forces have been actively using FPV drones on the battlefield for more than a year. Image
3/ Responding to a question from one of the officers whether Russian defense sector can mass-produce combat UGVs, Putin said that yes, he considers it "possible to organize mass production of ground robotic platforms to equip assault units." Image
Read 12 tweets
May 3
1/ THREAD - Over the past several months, I was working on a public report on the latest Russian #AI developments - it is now published with @CNASdc. Do check it out! Below are main points and takeaways. cnas.org/publications/r…
2/ The report is meant as a summary of the latest developments through March 2024, and should serve as a reference document for anyone interested in major Russian thoughts and deliberations on #AI in the military domain. The data is based on public sources and major Russian...
3/ ...announcements and debates on what artificial intelligence should mean for the country's defense, security, military and civilian establishments. We caveat such statements as coming from official sources and should be treated as such.
Read 9 tweets
May 3
1/ QUICK TAKE on Russia's Courier light combat and logistics UGV. This is a self-initiated project headed by Boris Rozhin (Colonel Cassad on Telegram), and a basic Courier UGV platform costs around 1 million rubles, or $11K. t.me/boris_rozhin/1…
2/ According to Rozhin: "With mass-scale production, further cost reduction is possible. Anything can be installed on it - from stretchers for the wounded and gratings/trays for transporting goods to EW systems, mines, machine guns, grenade launchers, ATGMs and AGS. The UGV is designed for a modular principle of use."Image
3/ Rozhin intends to take this UGV in combat "soon" after it was tried out in March. Back then - see this video - Ukrainian FPV drones hunted and destroyed these UGVs, but Rozhin wants more such combat platforms in battle.
Read 5 tweets
Apr 27
1/ QUICK TAKE on a Russian volunteer's analysis of where Russian "People's VPK (Defense-Industrial Complex)" is lagging behind Ukraine's civil society efforts to help the military. The translation is from a pro-Russian TG channel - usual caveats apply. Main points below.
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2/ "We are not losing when it come to the quality of (our tech) solutions. Our inventors... are generally better than the enemy's. Not much better - the enemy’s are also quite good... but our side...has more engineering and creative talent."
3/ "We are lagging behind (Ukrainians) in the speed of scaling successful and proven solutions; in organizing mass-scale, simple and cheap replication of such solutions; in the mass scale and quality of personnel training for the proper use of this tech at the front..."
Read 19 tweets
Apr 23
1/ QUICK TAKE - Russia’s Dmitry Rogozin is commenting on the new Ukrainian “Baba Yaga” heavy drone development. Usual caveats apply, since it’s a former Russian government official. Quick translation in the posts below.
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2/ “Over the past 24 hours, the enemy has deployed “silent” Baba Yaga attack drones. This is no longer a conversion of an agricultural drone into a combat one, but a separate type of heavy multirotor UAV with electric motors and a powerful battery to increase its range.”
3/ “This was predictable. Our fielding of experienced sniper pairs that shot down dozens of Baba Yagas noisily flying and heard from afar, should have led to the enemy upgrading and redeveloping its night unmanned bombers and their usage tactics.”
Read 6 tweets

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