Using electromagnetic waves to flummox and follow smarter weapons has become a critical part of the cat-and-mouse game between Ukraine and Russia. The

The Invisible War in Ukraine Being Fought Over Radio Waves

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2023-11-19 11:00:07

Using electromagnetic waves to flummox and follow smarter weapons has become a critical part of the cat-and-mouse game between Ukraine and Russia. The United States, China and others have taken note.

A visualization of the rapidly-changing frequencies of the Himera military radio, which features signal-hopping technology that makes it difficult to jam. Credit... Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

For months, the aerial vehicles supplied by Quantum Systems, a German technology firm, had worked smoothly for Ukraine’s military, swooping through the air to spot enemy tanks and troops in the country’s war against Russia. Then late last year, the machines abruptly started falling from the sky as they returned from missions.

“It was this mystery,” said Sven Kruck, a Quantum executive who received a stern letter from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense demanding a fix.

Quantum’s engineers soon homed in on the issue: Russians were jamming the wireless signals that connected the drones to the satellites they relied on for navigation, leading the machines to lose their way and plummet to earth. To adjust, Quantum developed artificial intelligence-powered software to act as a kind of secondary pilot and added a manual option so the drones could be landed with an Xbox controller. The company also built a service center to monitor Russia’s electronic attacks.

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