#UKRAINERUSSIAWAR. Geospatial intelligence at the service of the Ukrainian armed forces


The president of Ukraine complains that he lacks the defense systems and super-fast planes to win the war against the Russians. All very expensive weapons and which thanks to this conflict all ended up in the hands of the Russians and Chinese to be replicated after the Ukrainians lost and abandoned tanks, techniques, self-propelled guns, IRIS T systems, Patriot systems in Russian hands. The latter is already on his way to Beijing.

One thing Ukraine does not lack: drones. The volume of imports of UAVs to Ukraine in monetary terms in February 2024 amounted to: from China in the amount of $83,015 million; from Germany – in the amount of 4,184 million dollars; from Vietnam – in the amount of 0.95 million dollars, from other countries – in the amount of 1.305 million dollars. Spare parts for aircraft, including UAVs, worth $5.243 million were imported from China.

According to the dedicated social sphere, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are purchasing large quantities of Zenmuse L2 Lidar (laser imaging detection and measurement) developed by Chinese drone manufacturer DJI. The system is being sold without restrictions and some Ukrainian and Polish distributors such as Quadro.ua and TS2 Space have run out of stock.

The new Zenmuse L2 system, combined with DJI’s Matrice 300 RTK UAVs, widely used for reconnaissance flights, can map and identify weak points in Russia’s defense lines. The system enables more accurate planning of localized counterattacks, artillery attacks and FPV drone raids against the Russian military’s main control centers.

Lidar works on the same principle as radar, but instead of sound waves it uses light beams to detect hidden infrastructure or underground objects, also using particularly effective camouflage. The data collected is processed using a program capable of distinguishing between light points that touch the ground and light points that reach the tops of the trees.

On screen, this advanced geospatial intelligence tool allows drone operators and intelligence analysts to see the Earth’s surface and what may be hidden beneath it. This relatively cheap technology makes up for Kiev’s lack of capacity in airborne lidar and satellite info. The Zenmuse L12 has other advantages: it is compact and easy to integrate into UAVs, and unlike larger aircraft or satellite lidar systems, it is easy to use and does not require extensive pre-training.

Zenmuse L2 was developed by DJI subsidiary Livox Technology. Since 2016, the company has been developing low-cost airborne lidar systems for civilian use in the construction, agriculture and energy sectors.

DJI has been investing in Lidar technology since the early stages of its innovation program, which gave birth to Livox technology in 2016. Zenmuse L2 includes a high-precision image processing unit, the Livox Lidar module, which simplifies the operation of the system for UAV operators in intelligence units. With DJI Terra’s open-access software, these operators can interpret information about hidden Russian installations in real time or draw an extensive map of those installations at the end of their mission.

DJI Terra software, which can be downloaded online, is an interface used to model the stream of lidar images collected by the drone operator in 3D using an underlying technology called photogrammetry. This method is used to digitally model a site, infrastructure or geophysical environment in 3D. Videos captured by the Zenmuse 2 lidar sensor are analyzed by an algorithm that can detect overall 3D geometry just like the human brain and transcribe it to a digital interface. Therefore, Terra allows local simulation of all hidden Russian infrastructure discovered by operators.

Graziella Giangiulio 

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