SpaceX curbed Starlink internet service for drones in Ukraine

Internet service - Drone in the air

The company president said it has taken steps to stop the Ukrainian military from using the service.

SpaceX has actively prevented the Ukrainian military from using the company’s Starlink satellite internet service in order to control its drones since Russia’s invasion, said Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer at SpaceX.

The president pointed out that connection is being used by the Ukrainian military on the whole.

The satellite connectivity has been providing the military with broadband communications to help in the defense against the Russian military. That said, it was “never never meant to be weaponized,” explained Shotwell when speaking at a conference in Washington D.C. “However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement.”

Internet service - Ukraine Flag

When addressing reporters, Shotwell made reference to reports that the military in Ukraine had been using the Starlink service for drone control. The country has effectively deployed unmanned aircraft in order to identify enemy positions, target long-range fires and even to drop bombs.

“There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that,” stated Shotwell in reference to the use of Starlink internet service to control drones. “There are things that we can do, and have done.”

The use of the satellite internet service went beyond the SpaceX and Ukrainian government’s agreement.

Shotwell pointed out that using SpaceX to control drones was outside the scope of the agreement the company has with the Ukrainian government. She added that the contract was meant for humanitarian purposes such as ensuring that banks, hospitals and families had access to broadband internet service throughout the invasion by Russia.

“We know the military is using them for comms, and that’s ok,” said Shotwell. “But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes.”

Truckloads of Starlink terminals have been privately shipped by SpaceX to Ukraine to ensure the country’s military keeps up the ability to communicate by way of the almost 4,000 satellites SpaceX has already launched into low orbit. The United States, France and other governments have paid for additional shipments of the Starlink terminals beyond those SpaceX privately funded.


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