If you are new to the war, but you have a quadcopter and feel inspired to destroy enemies to the very Moscow, here are some tips for beginners on how to work with these birdies in the combat zone. These might well help you save equipment and your life.
DJI and Autel are the most common quadcopters used by combat units. They are about as much alike as a Muscovite tank and scrap metal. The only crucial difference is that DJI aeroscopes can detect DJI quadcopters and transmit the coordinates of the takeoff point to the artillery.
The aeroscope is a small black box with a pair of wicked antennae on top. It was produced in China to ensure safety of civil aviation. But something went wrong: a good number of the gadgets ended up in the artillery units of the Russian army. The aeroscope sees all the information about the active quadcopters within a radius of dozens of kilometers: the operator’s location, the quadcopter’s location, telemetry data, serial number and information about the account linked to the birdie. The first point shall cause the greatest concerns: should anything happen, you can ask for a new quadcopter, but the operator is a valuable figure, and cannot be assembled from the Chinese spare parts.
To prevent the aeroscope from detecting the corner where you got cozy with the remote controller (RC), just turn disable geolocation and Internet access on the tablet used to control flight. This cannot be done in the smart controller: hide it in a box with other useless but extremely inventory staff, and inquire a regular RC from your colleagues. The things are more complex with a drone — the aeroscope sees its way to the target as soon as the drone is turned on. Thus, the birdie must be turned on at a safe distance from the operator. The person who turns it on must learn how to run away from their own drone quickly. It is preferable to sit in the same secret remote place and to turn the drone off before running away from there.
Autel drones are not detected by aeroscope, which allows operating them without all these secret rituals. But just in case: take care that the drone starts the flight at low height and gains height or descends away from your positions — apart from the aeroscope, there exists good old radars that detect the approximate location of any airborne objects emitting signals into this world.
EW has been the subject of terrible legends on the frontline. The most fearful of them tells how fierce enemies took a drone by the leg and brought it to their lair, forcing the drone not to obey the operator’s commands. In fact, it is technically impossible to “snatch” a drone out of the sky and to put it down in one’s hands. But it is possible to jam navigation and communication between the drone and the operator, which may cause the drone to go off route, just following the Russian warship. And this can be prevented.
To begin with, let’s find it out, what EW (electronic warfare) is. EW implies any means to create radio interference within a certain frequency range. The drone receives commands from the RC on one or two frequencies, and the GPS signal from the satellite on the other frequency. The commands fail to pass in the area of interferences, and the drone loses satellite connection or ceases pairing with the RC. These interferences cannot steal any data or pull the drone into the dickhead’s bunker.
The drones can fly without GPS. In this mode (it is known as ATTI) the home point distance is not working properly, and the drone is not displayed on the map. You need to navigate the picture from the camera and return the drone or continue the flight using the visual landmarks. In ATTI mode the drone drifts a little with the wind. There is no betrayal, while the drifting is compensated by steering with a stick against the wind.
There is also such a thing as GPS spoofing, or substitution real GPS coordinates with fake ones. It makes the drone see its location somewhere on the far side of the world and rush back home in the wrong direction with a battery being low to reach the European continent. Spoofing is not usually used to bring the drone to enemy’s positions: it’s too difficult and it’s not worth the effort. Spoofing disorientates the drone and makes it think that it is somewhere in Africa or Antarctica. The main sign that your drone got spoofed is when it is rushing in an unknown direction at its maximum speed. At its maximum speed! In case it slowly follows the unknown direction — it’s not spoofing, it’s just drifting in the wind.
You can only beat spoofing if you have added the ATTI button on you RC in advance. It disables the reception of any GPS signal, either real or fake, making the drone go into ATTI mode and continue its flight using the visual landmarks. This is done differently depending on the model. You can find more info by asking the good old Google or our operators using the contact details in the Aerial Intelligence section.
If the EW jams the connection with the RC, you’ll need good luck or a tricky drone hack firmware, which, when combined with good luck, works quite well and saved a lot of our combat birdies. The firmware is paid, but some models allow opening the second control frequency and amplify the signal so that the EW will hang the antennae and slowly follow the Russian wasship. The good old Google knowns exactly how this firmware can be made. Just google the “drone hack”. The firmware helps the drone fly in no-fly zones of any color.
If, however, you’ve lost connection with the board despite the firmware and all the rituals, there is little hope that the drone will return to home unassisted. To do this, go to the settings and select Return to Home in What to Do After the RC Signal Is Lost.
Important! If the GPS interference is working and the drone does not see the satellites, it will not return to home, as it won’t know its own location and will try to hover, waiting for the miracle. While waiting, some drones can be blown away by the wind, while the others can attach to the terrain with lower positioning sensors and hover quite accurately in ATTI mode.
To improve or restore communication with the RC, you can try to raise the RC higher in the field and point the antennas more accurately towards the drone. If that doesn’t work, wait for the miracle. Do not turn off the drone or leave the takeoff point if the miracle did not happen immediately – EW can stop working in 5–10 minutes and you might be able to return the birdie back.
The optimal working height is not less than 200 meters during the day and not less than 100 meters at night (for models equipped with a thermal camera). The optimal operating speed is the maximum speed. The drone cannot slow down and hover over the enemy’s locations –it will be shot down. It is not enough just to identify the target – the drone must advance and return at the same maximum speed. It must fly right and left, holding the target within its frame. Eventually, it must fly around the tank for visual effectiveness. But not to hover. If the shooting on the drone has started – make it fly away gaining altitude in the Sport mode. It is not reasonable to make zigzags – make the drone climb straight up as fast as possible. It is almost impossible to shoot down a moving drone, but it is quite possible to hit it with dense fire.
Always leave a spare battery. Choose the battery percentage required to start the return depending on the wind and distance, but always leave 20-25% to land. Note that the remote controller starts making loud noises when the battery is low – the enemies may not like it. If you forgot this advice and the drone flies to home with a 10% charge, at this speed the drone will begin to lose height, but this can be corrected by lifting it up with a stick. After discharging to flat (0%), the batteries often are not subject to recovery.
When turning on video recording or taking photos, remember that in adverse circumstances the drone can reach enemies. Never take photos or videos of your positions and never shoot the takeoff point and the faces of the crew. You’ll have time for all those nice selfies with a RC and a machine gun as soon as the drone returns, but better – never. Format the memory card before each flight, preferably – not in the computer but in the drone itself.
Don’t forget about the safety of those around you. Do not gather a crowd of spectators around you. You can later watch a video in a cozy dugout with your large group, but do not stand in a crowd in open terrain during the flight. Do not start flights from your positions and near the buildings where you live – this helps the enemy to identify your location and try to kill you unexpectedly. Even if no aeroscope has been detected in your area or you are working for Autel, stay close to shelter in case of fire. And remember – you can always ask for a new drone from volunteers, but the operator is a valuable figure, xand cannot be assembled from the Chinese spare parts.
Take care of yourself and Ukraine!
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