Shahed drones with 4G: why, what Russia can get, and how to counteract
So far, the solution of installing 4G modems with SIM cards from Ukrainian operators on 'kamikaze' drones such as Shahed-136 looks like a test solution, but in the absence of counteraction, it can really help the enemy
Defense Express writes about this.
The Russian Federation has begun experimenting with installing 4G modems on Shahed-136 drone. So far, it's been rather artisanal and objectively looks like an experiment, as evidenced by the photos that appeared online and were confirmed by expert Serhiy Flesh.
“And of course, the main question is why the enemy would need it at all. And the first assumption that was immediately made was the possibility of data transmission from the Shahed itself. This can be the current coordinates, flight parameters, etc., which allows the enemy to understand exactly where and which drone flew or was shot down,” the report explained.
This allows them to build new routes to bypass Ukrainian air defense. The second is the ability to transmit data to change the route during the flight.
In addition to this, the cellular network can also be used for navigation based on the LBS (Location-based service) function, which is standard for many operators. It allows getting the approximate coordinates of the phone without satellite navigation using the cell ID and, in more advanced versions, by measuring the time of signal transmission between different communication towers.
It is this function that allows commercial services with names like "Beacon", "Geo-finding", etc. to obtain data on the location of a particular phone.
This function, especially when measuring signal transit times, can provide an accuracy of up to 100-150 meters. Of course, this is not enough for precise geolocation, but it is an extremely cheap additional independent navigation system that provides important data in combination. Especially in the case of Shahed-type aircraft, where there is only satellite navigation and a relatively primitive autopilot that gives a 5% range error, Defense Express noted.
That is, even in the case of satellite navigation jamming, Shahed with such an additional system can "zero out" the error of its own primitive inertial system, as well as identify satellite navigation spoofing.
Defense Express also added that the most important thing is that the enemy's attempts to move in this direction were immediately noticed, which means that it is possible to counteract this extremely effectively at the state level, both at the level of the mobile communications regulator and at the level of each operator, which may apply temporary restrictions on the functionality of its network in the event of a threat in specific regions.