OSCE SMM Spot Report 8/2021: Forced emergency landing of long-range unmanned aerial vehicle due to dual GPS signal interference
At 20:00 on 8 April, upon take-off from its base in Stepanivka (government-controlled, 54km north of Donetsk, 25km west-north-west of the contact line), an SMM long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) experienced GPS signal interference, assessed as caused by probable jamming. At 20:16 that same evening, the aircraft then experienced dual GPS signal interference, assessed as caused by jamming, while flying over areas near Hnativka (government-controlled, 39km north of Donetsk, 16km west of the contact line), after which the SMM continued with its planned flight over areas on both sides of the contact line.
At 1:30 on 9 April, having registered persistent dual GPS signal interference - assessed as caused by jamming - throughout the flight, the SMM commanded the UAV to return to base in Stepanivka, and initiated an orbit manoeuvre in an effort to regain a GPS signal before landing. It was unable to do so.
At 2:31 on 9 April, due to the risk of a loss of spatial control, the Mission completed an emergency landing of the aircraft in a field about 100m from its designated landing spot at Stepanivka. The UAV now requires a full technical inspection before further monitoring activities can be undertaken, and will be grounded while this occurs.
This is the second time this week that the SMM’s long-range UAVs have experienced serious levels of GPS signal interference on take-off and landing, effecting both GPS receivers, in areas near their base in Stepanivka (see SMM Spot Report 6/2021). This interference has been increasing since 21 March.
Any GPS signal interference hinders the Mission’s ability to conduct effective monitoring and reporting of the security situation in line with its mandate. Long-range UAVs are an essential part of SMM operations, especially at night and in areas where the Mission’s monitoring and freedom of movement are restricted.
The SMM notes that OSCE Permanent Council Decision No. 1117 specifies that the SMM shall have safe and secure access throughout Ukraine. Unrestricted and unconditional access to all areas is essential to ensure effective monitoring and reporting of the security situation, as well as other mandated tasks. The mandate also tasks the Mission to report on any restrictions of its freedom of movement or other impediments to fulfilment of its mandate.
 The Mission notes that, in each case, the source of GPS signal interference could have originated from anywhere within the radius of tens of kilometres from the UAV’s position.
For PDF attachments or links to sources of further information, please visit: https://www.osce.org/special-monitoring-mission-to-ukraine/483149
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