Ukraine Is Using AI-Supported Drones to Sabotage Russian Energy Systems

Ukraine is using artificial intelligence-assisted drones to fight back against Russia’s much larger war machine by sabotaging the country’s critical energy systems. When Russia first invaded Ukraine in February 2022, many experts assumed the conflict would be a short affair with Russia coming out on top.

The Kremlin has a significantly larger army, deeper pockets and more energy reserves than needed to fight a relatively small country such as Ukraine. Or at least that’s what people thought, with many pundits predicting that Ukraine would fall in a few weeks to months at most.

However, with ingenuity born of desperation and aid from several foreign allies, Ukraine has held on and spent the last two years fighting a defensive war that has left large swathes of Russia’s war machine and critical infrastructure heavily damaged or destroyed.

While Russia has mostly deployed conventional but costly combat technology and artillery in its ongoing war with Ukraine, the smaller nation has relied on smaller, significantly cheaper, but very effective tools such as simple drones to cause major damage to Russian tanks, warships and critical infrastructure.

On March 13, 2024, a Ukrainian drone smashed into Rosneft’s Ryazan refinery, one of the largest oil refineries in Russia as part of the country’s efforts to compromise Russia’s energy systems. Several videos of the attack show the drone flying and skydiving into a tower covered in pipes and exploding when it impacted.

Reportedly striking an oil refinery located more than 311 miles away from Ukraine, the attack is a testament to how advanced Ukraine’s long-range drone warfare has become in just two years of war.

Russian officials say a separate drone sent by the Ukraine army hit another major Russian oil refinery, specifically the Niznekamsk refinery located more than 700 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border, injuring 12 people and causing a major fire at the refinery’s primary refining unit. According to a knowledgeable source who spoke to CNN, the recent drone attack on Rosneft’s Ryazan refinery represents one of Ukraine’s “deepest operations into Russian territory.”

Even though most Western nations have imposed price caps and import bans on Russian gas and oil, the two fossil fuels still produce billions of dollars in revenue for Moscow. Attacking Russia’s massive fossil fuel industry with long-range and even AI-assisted drones could allow Ukraine to hit Russia where it hurts the most: its war economy.

A source with knowledge of Ukraine’s drone program says the country’s rudimentary AI- capabilities allow these drones to avoid Russian jamming technology, navigate without interference, and strike their targets. The source explained that Ukraine plans drone flights alongside its allies and uses AI coupled with advanced sensors to ensure the drones strike with extreme precision.

Royal United Services Institute research analysts say the drones leverage a form of artificial intelligence called “machine vision” to autonomously navigate the geography and find their targets.

Away from the military front, AI is seeing major deployments in improving customer engagement and taking enterprise efficiency to a whole new level. Many companies such as Inc. (NYSE: AI) are making their contribution to driving this revolution.

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