Ukraine’s AI Drone Gamble

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In the race to develop new, better and more drones, artificial intelligence is one of the new frontiers that Ukraine hopes to dominate before Russia has a chance to catch up.

But with the demands of a grinding war, there are concerns about how fast AI is taking to the skies and how reliable the nascent integration of drones and AI will be in the coming months.

Ukraine’s drone czar and minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, has suggested that prototypes of AI drones will appear along the front lines in eastern and southern Ukraine before the year is out.

It seems the technology already exists. A Ukrainian drone attack on the Tatarstan region, which is more than 1,000 kilometers into Russian territory, earlier this week focused attention on how far Ukraine’s drone reach has grown.

Some of Kyiv’s drones, used to zero in on Russia’s energy infrastructure, have begun using a rudimentary form of AI to reduce the effects of jamming and aid navigation, CNN reported Tuesday.

“Accuracy under jamming is enabled by the use of artificial intelligence. Each aircraft has a terminal computer with satellite and terrain data,” an unnamed source, said to be close to Ukraine’s drone program, told Net. Told Work.

As drones have evolved, so have counter-drone technologies. Jamming is a cornerstone of Kyiv’s and Moscow’s, trying to take down and shoot down enemy drones before they can complete their missions. AI, specifically machine vision, is one tool that aims to combat these effects.

A Ukrainian drone is seen during a test flight on February 21. Ukraine’s drone czar and minister of digital transformation has suggested that prototypes of AI drones will appear along front lines in eastern and southern regions.

Scott Patterson/Getty Images

With machine vision, the goal is for the drone to independently find its way to its target, and learn to distinguish where it is in a given area.

“The main goal is to eliminate the dependence on communication between the drone and the operator, and the drone with satellites for navigation,” said Samuel Bandit of the US think tank CNA. Newsweek.

The use of drones that can attack a target without operator guidance, completing missions despite jamming, has clear battlefield advantages when anti-drone technology is ubiquitous.

“There are even systems that can see the ground below and puzzle out where it is to bypass GPS jamming,” said UK-based drone expert Steve Wright. Newsweek.

With the pressures of war, Kyiv and Moscow are hoping to integrate new, experimental AI in much shorter time frames than many countries in the West have to develop and discuss the technology.

In Ukraine, it is “used at high speed and without special barriers or checkpoints to quickly gain an advantage over the enemy,” Bandit said.

Wright said that with AI, it’s impossible to be absolutely sure that the computer “won’t do something unpredictable and unsafe.” “In the West, we are making great efforts to fight this problem, but of course Ukrainians don’t have that luxury.”

Russia has also said it is adding AI to its drones. Moscow’s military, along with volunteer groups, are developing AI “in contrast to the cautious and responsible approach of the United States, if resources are scarce,” Bandit and analyst Jean Pinellis wrote in January of the War on the Rocks website. Wrote in a comment. .

Bandit said both Russia and Ukraine will “try to copy each other’s AI achievements in the shortest possible time, and this AI race is the current tip of the spear in the global AI tech race.”

Unnamed sources told Bloomberg in mid-February that several nations that support Kiev are working to send Ukraine AI-powered drones that can attack Russian positions in swarms.