TechFriendly fire in the sky: Russian forces unintentionally down a drone of their own in Ukraine

Friendly fire in the sky: Russian forces unintentionally down a drone of their own in Ukraine

Russian flying signal booster "Ghul".
Russian flying signal booster "Ghul".
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | DanielR

4:26 PM EST, January 9, 2024

Commercial drones have become indispensable on the Ukrainian battleground, posing threats not only to infantry soldiers but also to tank crews. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces, whichever holds the advantage at present, utilize drones - none exceeding a $1000 value - to target tanks and individual soldiers, who sometimes resort to defending themselves with sticks.

That said, the vast deployment of electronic warfare systems in certain areas that interfere with control signals complicates the use of commercial drones. Both sides have attempted various strategies to tackle this problem, including the implementation of flying signal amplifiers to extend the range and modifying receptors to accommodate a limited spectrum of frequencies.

Such a drone, which served as a flying signal amplifier, claimed to be Ukrainian-built but subsequently identified as Russian, was shot down by the Russians themselves. This drone is part of the "Ghul" family. The comprehensive construction of the drone has been meticulously discussed by a user identified as DanielR on the X-portal.

Drones of this type first emerged towards the end of 2023 and are an amalgamation of flying signal amplifiers and "kamikaze" drones that carry grenades, cluster munition bomblets, or anti-tank grenades PG-7VL.

The drone casing, crafted by the Russians using polymers and a 3D printer, houses two antennas on the ends of the crossbar, acting as a transmitter and receiver respectively. The drone is outfitted with an iFlight GPS module (M8Q-5883 V2.0) and operates via a SpeedyBee model F405 V3 system.

The video signal receiver, a 9-channel Matek System (VRX-1G3-V2), operates within the 1080 - 1360 MHz band. Interestingly, this system has been modified by using a Tai-Saw Technology TA1090EC filter, curtailing all frequencies outside the 1075 - 1095 MHz range.

As per the Russians, this significantly boosts resistance to electronic warfare systems which to be effective have to lock onto this restricted range. However, this solution isn't entirely free of issues, as it degrades the system's capacity to handle only one video channel.

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