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Reuters: SpaceX curbed Ukraine's use of Starlink Internet for drones

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 9, 2023 8:32 AM 2 min read
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Elon Musk's SpaceX has put measures in place to prevent Ukraine's Armed Forces from using the company's Starlink satellite internet service for controlling drones, SpaceX's president said on Feb. 8, Reuters reports.

The Ukrainian military has taken advantage of Starlink satellites to access the internet when the power is out, or there is no internet access. It is also more secure than other networks and makes it nearly impossible for Russian troops to intercept Ukrainian activity.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and chief operating officer, said that SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service was "never meant to be weaponized."

"However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement," she said during a conference in Washington, D.C.

Shotwell also said that Ukraine's military had used the Starlink satellites to control drones. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as drones, have been key for the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the battlefield since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, detecting and destroying Russian forces.

A Game of Drones: Ukraine builds up UAV fleet

"There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that," Shotwell said. "There are things that we can do, and have done," she said, without giving any details on the exact measures taken.

According to Shotwell, using the Starlink satellites to control drones went beyond the agreement SpaceX has with the Ukrainian government. The contract was meant for humanitarian purposes, like providing internet to hospitals, banks, and families, she said.

"We know the military is using them for comms, and that's ok," she said. "But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes."

When asked about services outages that Starlink had suffered in Ukraine late last year, Shotwell said she did not know whether those outages were related to the measures taken to curb the Ukrainian military's use of the satellites to control drones.

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