Ross: Drones used in Ukraine invasion use western chips

Jan 5, 2023, 8:00 AM | Updated: 9:16 am

FILE - Ukrainian soldiers launch a drone at Russian positions near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/LIBKOS, File)

(AP Photo/LIBKOS, File)

Here’s the latest lesson to come out of the war in Ukraine –– anything you invent can and will be used against you.

As we’ve all been told, Russia’s attack drones are made by Iran. But on the CBS Evening News last night, a Ukrainian drone specialist showed reporter Chris Livesay the guidance system of one of those Iranian drones – captured largely intact by Ukrainian forces – and soldered into the circuit board, was a chip made in Switzerland.

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“The logo reads U-Blox, a Swiss company, so without this chip, the plane doesn’t know where to fly,” Livesay said.

But the Ukrainians discovered Switzerland wasn’t the only source.

“The Ukrainian government showed us photos of components produced by US companies MAXIM and Microchip Technology retrieved from Russian and Russian-modified Iranian drones,” Livesay said

I looked up MAXIM, one of the U.S. companies Chris mentioned, and found their Facebook page, which reads in part: “Maxim Drones is a drone-industry specialist and high-end retailer. We offer the best-fit drones for the job, whether you need production-quality filming and photography, land and equipment surveying, racing, and more. We ship worldwide.”

I’m pretty sure they never expected that the “and more” would include guiding a bomb to a power station in Ukraine.

But in the world we live in – you have to expect that.

Especially if you sell drone technology that’s compatible with the Russian version of GPS – a system called GLONASS – which according to the Ukrainians, is what these companies are selling.

“Ukrainian lawmaker Yaroslav Yurchyshyn says at least six American companies produce GLONASS-compatible chips,” Livesay said.

This is another reminder that just about everything invented for the good guys will eventually fall into the hands of the bad guys – whether it’s guns, guidance chips, nuclear weapons, or the Internet itself.

And now here comes the next breakthrough development: massively-networked self-teaching A-I that can synthesize potentially infinite amounts of information, and which I am sure will tempt some country somewhere to link it to a weapons system.

It’s too late to reel in the drones.

But I hope it’s not too late to set limits on AI technology – and to at least make sure there’s a big fat cutoff switch within reach.

Because I think we’ll need it.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Drones used in Ukraine invasion use western chips