Ukraine’s drones outsmart Russian jamming with AI-powered “Eagle Eyes”

The Economist reports that as Ukraine faces dwindling artillery supplies, it has increasingly relied on drones for precise, long-range strikes. However, Russian electronic warfare has effectively jammed many Ukrainian drones’ communication signals. In response, Ukraine’s special forces have developed “Eagle Eyes,” an AI-driven software that allows drones to navigate autonomously using machine vision, even when jammed.

Eagle Eyes compares live video of the terrain with an on-board map created from previous aerial reconnaissance data. This optical navigation enables drones to continue their missions without external input. The software can also recognize and engage specific targets, such as tanks and jamming stations, without human commands.

Initially tested by a few special forces teams, Eagle Eyes is now affordable enough for kamikaze drones and widely used. Ukrainian manufacturers view optical navigation as a “must-have” for drones with a range over 12 miles (20 km). Developers like MindCraft.ai and Midgard Dynamics are enhancing their systems with infrared cameras, inertial data, and semi-automated targeting to improve accuracy and allow night flights.

Demand for optical navigation is growing beyond Ukraine, with Israeli firm Asio reporting strong sales to the Israel Defense Forces and U.S. companies. While the technology’s effectiveness against Russian jamming remains to be seen, it could potentially be a game-changer in turning the tide of the conflict.

DroneXL’s Take: The development of AI-powered optical navigation for drones showcases the incredible resilience and innovation of Ukraine’s Drone Industry in the face of adversity. As the technology continues to advance and become more widely adopted, it could significantly impact the future of drone warfare, enabling autonomous operations even in heavily contested environments. This breakthrough highlights the crucial role of drones in modern conflicts and the importance of continued investment in cutting-edge drone technologies.

https://dronexl.co/2024/05/29/ukraine-drones-ai-eagle-eyes/

Comment: This is similar to the inertial navigation systems once used by our cruise missiles that could check their location with contour mapping and radar altimeter readings (TERCOM). I remember a counter to this was to lay out large reflective panels to spoof the contour mapping system. I don’t know if that worked. Then GPS came along and we all jumped on that bandwagon. That was fine until GPS jamming and spoofing became widespread as it has in Ukraine.

I see Eagle Eyes as a throw back to the old TERCOM, but a welcome throwback. Advances in computer miniaturization, power and computer vision made this possible. The key is that this is now so cheap it can be used on thousands of FPV suicide drones. This should give Ukraine an advantage in the drone wars, but probably only for a few months. This is largely a software solution and the Russians will solve it or copy it.

BTW, this source, DroneXL, is interesting. It’s a cross between a hobby and a news site. In another article on the Ukrainian drone industry it lays out a blueprint for furthering our own military drone industry. It speaks against legislation limiting and hindering the widespread development and use of drone technology. Such legislation would only stymie innovation. Another point I found useful is Ukraine’s decision to provide funding directly to units to develop and field their own drones. Can you see units like the 10th Mountain or 25th Infantry Divisions developing, funding and supporting local drone industries and sponsoring local drone clubs and local competitions? That would enhance innovation, the development of local drone manufacturing and even Army recruiting.

TTG  

https://dronexl.co/2024/02/05/ukraine-drone-manufacturing/

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23 Responses to Ukraine’s drones outsmart Russian jamming with AI-powered “Eagle Eyes”

  1. scott s. says:

    Not so much TERCOM, but rather DSMAC (Digital Scene Matching Area Correlator) which was developed by JHU-APL. DSMAC required images with a certain amount of contrast. I could see AI as being able to improve performance.

  2. Jovan P says:

    I love the texts which talk about ,,turning the tide of the conflict”, mostly written by economic and military experts, i.e. John Does far from the front lines.

    Although TTG relatively often uses the term ,,Ukranian industry” and ,,Ukrainian drone industry”, due to the shortage of electricity, money and men, im seemd that the only relatively well functioning Ukrainian industry is that of catching volunteers on the streets and sending them to the front.

  3. TonyL says:

    TTG,

    “This should give Ukraine an advantage in the drone wars, but probably only for a few months. This is largely a software solution and the Russians will solve it or copy it”

    I’d imagine the Russians already had solution for this. They are probably testing some kind of image processing jamming systems. If even I can forsee this “innovation” for optical navigation coming way before the Ukrainians delploy it, then Russian engineers would have already started working on some type of optical jammers. By the way, Tesla cars rely on optical navigation exclusively (iirc there are 16 cameras).

  4. Keith Harbaugh says:

    If the West starts striking targets deep in Russia,
    LJ has some predictions on how the Russians might retaliate:

    Take out Starlink, Western ISR platforms, and anything else supporting the strikes.
    And then (my comment) WWIII, here we come.

    https://youtu.be/VOYq18wziv8?t=14m39s

    • Keith Harbaugh says:

      And now the Russians give a warning:

      “Russia warns US of ‘fatal consequences’ over miscalculations in Ukraine
      “They underestimate the seriousness of the rebuff they may receive,” Russian minister says.”

      https://www.politico.eu/article/russia-warns-of-fatal-consequences-against-us-over-miscalculation-in-ukraine/

      This sounds pretty serious to me.
      Is it really worth calling the Russians’ bluff?
      Not in my opinion.
      Is who controls Ukraine really all that important?

      • TTG says:

        Keith Harbaugh,

        Putin has been warning us of dire consequences for two years and has failed to follow through. Unless we suddenly send NATO air forces to Moscow and Saint Petersburg in direct support of Ukraine, I doubt we’ll ever see those dire consequences. We’ve been very cautious in our support for Ukraine.

      • Keith Harbaugh says:

        Larry Johnson is absolutely on fire over this issue,
        in this ~30-minute video made this morning:
        https://youtu.be/3hXoM-vV_VY

        I think his points are worth at least hearing, even if one finds them unconvincing.
        (I accept them, but that proves nothing.)
        In any case, Larry certainly articulates his views with passion, and with comparisons and historical examples.

        • TTG says:

          Keith Harbaugh,

          Larry Johnson is worth hearing in the same way that Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” is worth watching. You will definitely learn something from the experience. In this case, Larry’s historical examples are mostly correct. Russians will defend their homes doggedly. He’s also right about that. Unfortunately for both the Kremlin and Larry, the Ukrainians are defending their homes just as doggedly.

          • Keith Harbaugh says:

            Well, this proves one thing.
            No one can say that alumni of the IC agree on the important issues 🙂

    • Keith Harbaugh says:

      I, like some others, am extremely worried decisions made in the U.S
      are likely to cause WWIII.
      See, e.g.

      2024-06-02
      Paul Craig Roberts
      https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2024/06/02/watching-washington-foment-nuclear-war/

      2024-06-03
      Larry Johnson and Judge Napolitano
      https://youtu.be/3hXoM-vV_VY

      2024-06-04
      Scott Ritter and Judge Napolitano
      https://youtu.be/lOsW84wYdzg

      2024-06-04
      Larry Johnson
      https://youtu.be/BDXN2kt2CLc

      TTG, I REALLY think this deserves a top-level post.
      A suggestion:
      Lead with the scaremongering links cited above.
      There’s really too much there to summarize.
      I think just the links would be right;
      readers can decide what they want to explore.
      Then furnish your analysis.
      There is probably too much there for you to analyze everything, but I am sure you have insights on some of it.
      I know you have written about some of this in the past, but that is on scattered comments and hard to find.
      It would be helpful to have a central repository for your views on this, with links back to any older posts you think are appropriate.
      Maybe make a “Category” for this, labeled, say “WWIII Fears”?

      BTW, I have assembled the three YouTube videos linked to above into a YouTube playlist, which can be expanded as appropriate.
      I have already added a Larry Wilkerson made today.
      https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZlQy6FlDBO2EpvgkZr1PJyLbTFGAxm0O

      Finally, some of the videos include material beyond WWII, like Ritter’s comments about Ukraine.

      Thank you for whatever you can do to forward debate on this important topic.

      • TTG says:

        Keith Harbaugh,

        My read on the sources you cite is that they are deathly afraid that the Kremlin is in danger of not succeeding in their endeavor to subdue Ukraine and are joining the Kremlin in its effort to intimidate the West into abandoning Ukraine. That your sources apparently have no concern that Russia’s invasion of her European, non-NATO neighbor could lead to WWIII. Only Russia has repeatedly threatened striking Europe with nuclear weapons, yet that does not seem to concern your sources.

        Granted the recent willingness of Poland, the Baltics, France and I believe Sweden to put their troops on Ukrainian territory to train Ukrainians and maybe even guard the borders with Belarus and Transnistria does raise the bar on a wider war, but even that does not mean nuclear war. Russia already used Belarus as a launch platform so it’s already more than a two party war.

        The bottom line is that I don’t see Ukraine’s use of Western weapons on Russian territory as that big a deal. Unless Ukraine targets Moscow and Saint Petersburg on the same scale as Russia targets Kharkov and Kyiv, I don’t see the prospect for a WWIII.

    • Keith Harbaugh says:

      Correction:
      In the Ritter video
      the part relevant to WWIII starts at 13m45s.
      https://youtu.be/lOsW84wYdzg?t=13m45s.

      The minutes preceding that deal with the seizure of Ritter’s passport and assertions about Ukraine and the U.S. trying to control speech and “information terrorists”,
      and while not dealing with WWIII possibilities, should interest many here.

  5. Christian J Chuba says:

    This is the future for small suicide drones. This is much more promising than the dinosaur MQ-9 drones which are basically, pilotless bombers that are only good for 3rd world targets.

    One difference between this and the TERCOM used on cruise missiles is that the cruise missile costs $1M and I bet you can build a small drone with with AI processing for less than $10,000. Even the iPhone and Android devices have a processor capable of running AI and decent optics and you can get them for $1,000.

    Iran has a lot of IT graduates, I bet they’ve been looking at this too.

  6. leith says:

    TerCom requires reliable topographic data to include manmade features. DSMC does also, plus it needs good imagery especially in and around the target. So in addition to anti-jamming maybe AI can rectify possible navigation errors? There are many, for example some are due to seasonal or recent manmade changes, or for time-of-day shadowing, or industrial level illumination, or for electronic noise distortion in the sensors or in the steering servos.

  7. F&L says:

    This will interest some of you. Dubbed into English, no need for subtitles. It turns out that the drone that hit the Voronezh over the horizon early warning radar was a 5 foot long drone of British origin assembled in Portugal. That we’ve reached this point is ridiculous, but here we are.

    Should Russia hit some key British facilities? (Soloviev show). 13 minutes.
    https://youtu.be/m9Wh_ACwymk
    For one European country a salvo of one division of Iskander missiles is enough.

    • leith says:

      F&L –

      Solovyov is a propagandist and political prostitute for Putin. He was banned on YouTube years ago, how the hell did the Kremlin sneak him back on?

      Back in early 2022 he set the stage for Putin’s SMO by claiming Britain was planning to attack Russia from Ukraine. After the Bucha murders he claimed that the British were responsible for the mass killings of civilians there. He asserted that Britain’s MI-6 poisoned Sergei Skripal and Alexei Navalny and falsely blamed Russia for the deed. He also alleges that Ukraine is getting a nuke from the West and is planning on using it on Moscow.

      Regarding this British/Portuguese drone he is hypothesizing: Ukraine is way ahead of the UK in the design and construction of long range kamikaze UAVs. They do have some old 1980 era British made Banshee target drones, which they converted to attack drones. But those are short range, about 100km, with no ability for deep strike on the Voronesh radars in Armavir (or Orsk).

      • F&L says:

        Leith,

        Yes Soloviev is a dick unquestionably but the white haired gent seems like a reasonable person and he’s featured on several Russian shows as a respected military expert. FWIW I think Bucha was not as advertised by the West. I think the British were deeply involved and they left their signature in at least 2 ways – 1) Bojo was there as it was announced right after the Istanbul meeting and 2) “Bucha” sounds exactly like the word “butcher” as pronounced by a Brit so I think it was chosen for it’s propaganda value. They figured the name of the town would sound like “butcher,” to the vast number of English speaking people around the world. FWI(also) Worth I consider Boris Johnson to be an utterly criminal psychopath, far worse than Soloviev who can actually make sense when he gets his rabies shots or whatever they give him. Sorry but that’s what I think about the Bucha story. They also might have seen a correspondence with the word “Buchenwald,” the name of an infamous WWII Nazi death camp.

        • leith says:

          F&L –

          The white haired dude on Solovyov’s show is Konstantin Sivkov. He is the bozo that wants to nuke Yellowstone National Park with Putin’s so-called Satan ICBM. He’s an old pensioned off sailor I believe. He either has the DTs from all that free-flowing vodka on RU destroyers, or he has what my Grampa used to call ‘The Dee-mentia’.

          • F&L says:

            Leith,
            Thanks. Bottom line: None of them actually know anything because by definition only one man knows the answer to any of these questions and that’s Putin and he himself doesn’t know because he makes things up as time goes on. It must be embarrassing and humiliating – look at what’s happened since 2/24/2022.

          • LeaNder says:

            Did not watch it all, but considering Leith, I have to admit–as babbling nitwit that is–for longer now, why he is soooo informed on matters. 😉

            Is that only since …

            But yes, after all matters may not be that much different in Russia and the US on some matters like making: “things up as time goes on.”

            Last but not least. Interesting to the amount of maybe 5% I watched it. …

  8. English Outsider says:

    The Russian drones that are said to spool a filament behind them so can communicate without fear of jamming offer an alternative means of reaching and identifying the target. But AI directed drones look to be neater and less fuss. Am wondering how they’d be coped with in a civilian environment. Isn’t that the question one always asks? What degree of increased risk is there for me and my family. Not much at all, I’d guess, for most of us. Much less than driving or playing in the garden, but maybe a little.

    However directed these lethal little devices could become a real problem for the security details of major public figures. Also in gang warfare and criminal activity. Breiviks would also find their range of activity greatly expanded.

    Ukraine’s a leaky war zone so there’d be no lack of explosives to attach to them. No lack of operatives either, as the disgruntled hard liners move west. Or normal ammunition and the average techie would suffice. Camouflage the drones as birds or even, with the greater processing power now available, construct them on the same principle. Birds know a thing or two about aerodynamics and make little noise. Move underground and send smart pigs along sewers and conduits and few urban areas could be 100% secure.

    Keeping clear of political rallies and not getting involved in the local crime scene should keep the average civilian reasonably safe. Most of us do that anyway. But the Breiviks are unpredictable. One would just have to rely on the fact that there aren’t that many of them around.

    • babelthuap says:

      I was thinking the same EO. It’s becoming very easy to target government officials, especially soft target low level ones. Keep taking those out and eventually nobody wants the job except those who are friendly to the enemy which by the way is exactly what happened in Afghanistan with IEDs and VBIEDs.

      Granted, it did take a while but eventually the US threw in the towel. As for ballistic long range attacks inside Russia, Ukraine was already doing that. It’s very expensive for one but also, Russia is massive. Ukraine also gets hit by much of the same everytime they do it.

  9. Christian J Chuba says:

    “Am wondering how they’d [AI] be coped with in a civilian environment.”

    The key will be in finding the correct balance of manual operations vs AI.
    For example, I am certain that there are conditions, like at Avdeevka, where an operator can say with great confidence that there are only military targets, in this direction, for the next 15 mi. If drone optics are good enough, you can add more qualifiers to AI such as, ‘uniform required’ or ‘must be carrying gun’.


    I loved watching ‘Aliens’ robot sentries and I’m wondering when we will start using that. Again there are situations where you can set up positions and say, ‘nothing should be in the sky directly in front of us’ and have them shoot any drone sized object. I pity the Turkey Vultures but war is war.

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