Speed Reads

Drone Warfare

Ukraine launches war tech innovation initiative to improve, expand its 'Army of Drones'

Drones have played an increasingly important role in Ukraine's war against Russian invaders, from off-the-shelf consumer quadcopters to exploding drones made in Iran and retrofitted Soviet-era uncrewed fixed-wing aircraft capable of reaching Moscow. Ukraine wants more drones, and better ones, to overcome Russia's numerical advantages in troops and armaments. So on Wednesday, Kyiv launched an initiative to ramp up research and development of drones and other technology for use in battle, hoping to bring together the government, military, and private sector developers.

"Considering the enemy that is right next to us and its scale, we definitely need to develop the military tech so that we can defend ourselves," Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's minister of digital transformation, told The Associated Press. "There are many people on the battlefield now of the young generation that can work with technologies, and they need them." Fedorov gave a tour of Ukraine's expanding Army of Drones, and its up-and-coming drone operators, to BBC News ahead of the launch.

Ukraine's ministry of digital transformation has coordinated with actor Mark Hamill and other celebrities to raise more than $108 million to buy drones for Ukraine's war effort. The most common drone on the front line, both for Russia and Ukraine, is the Chinese-made DJI Mavic, which sells for less than $2,000, if the military can get around China's export ban. "Any assault without drones, right now, it's like going blind into a minefield, and you don't know what is waiting for around the corner," Fevzi Ametov, a Ukrainian soldier and co-founder of Drone.ua, a company that specializes in drones, told AP

The ubiquity of battle drones means soldiers need to find a way to defend against them, too. Ametov's company sells a $12,000 drone-jamming gun to bring down Russian UAVs. "Every side is trying to use as many drones as possible," he said. "When you are staying at the position, this is the only way to protect yourself from the drone."