MILAN — Estonian-made THeMIS unmanned ground vehicles operating in Ukraine will feature Starlink satellite connectivity, enabling their operation from thousands of kilometers away, the robot manufacturer announced on Wednesday.

A vehicle equipped to that effect, made by United Arab Emirates-owned and Estonia-based Milrem Robotics, will be unveiled at the company’s during Eurosatory 2024 trade show that begins next week, according to a company statement,

Specifically, a THeMIS variant devoted to cargo transportation will feature the Starlink hookup, a constellation of internet satellites operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Milrem has given more than dozen THeMIS vehicles to Ukrainian forces.

The Estonian company sought out the expertise of the Dutch datalinks firm AEC Skyline for the integration of the vehicles’ latest add-on feature, Milrem said.

“By leveraging satellite connectivity, the THeMIS robotic vehicle, which is currently assisting Ukrainian soldiers in the war with Russia, can seamlessly transmit data, receive commands, and relay vital information in real-time, regardless of its location on the battlefield,” the Milrem statement reads.

Using the Starlink satellite system requires a ground terminal, which SpaceX started shipping to Kyiv only hours after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, according to the BBC. As of June 2023, the British broadcaster reported that there were tens of thousands of terminals in Ukraine, including 500 bought by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Starlink satellites operate in low-Earth orbit at less than 600 kilometers (370 miles) above the earth, according to the company. Being closer to Earth translates into better performance for the system’s intended applications.

Last month, Russian Telegram channels published photos of what they alleged showed a badly damaged, captured model of the combat robot. A Milrem spokesman declined at the time to comment, stating only that the company was aware of the images.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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