Conflicts & War

Eyes in the sky, how drones became key to Ukraine’s army

By Rostyslav Averchuk

Lviv, Ukraine, Feb 14 (EFE).- The battlefields of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine conjure up images of World War I and II due to the extensive use of artillery and frontal infantry attacks but one of the standout differences can be found in the widespread use of commercial drones.

A 24-year-old Ukrainian soldier, nicknamed by his comrades in the 93rd brigade as Ali, says several drones can be hovering above the ground at any given moment and often there is no telling which is Ukrainian and which is Russian.

“We tend to move directly above the enemy’s positions to see the results of our strikes, provide correct coordinates to our artillery and to be ready for their (the Russians’) response,” he tells Efe from war-ravaged Bakhmut.

Russian drones are usually not as bold, watching Ukrainians from afar, he says.

A possible reason is that Russians have more ammunition and do not need to be as precise as Ukrainian forces do, while the distance also means there is less chance of the device being shot down.

“Both sides use radio electronic weapons to interfere in the control of the drones, which may easily lead to its loss,” explains Ali.

Part of the skill of a drone operator is to find narrow flight corridors where the drone can safely reach the enemy’s position without being intercepted.

“If a drone is ‘caught’ by their weapons, it ceases to be navigated by GPS and has to be led back manually by the operator,” Ali says.

These drones do not require internet connection.

“They send the image to my control panel and I can send information by a radio transmitter to my officers or artillery,” he adds.

However, connecting to the Internet, usually by connecting through Starlink terminals, allows the visuals from the drone to be livestreamed to the command center.

Here, commanders can collect broadcasts from several drones to stitch together an overview of the battlefield.

Yuriy Butusov, Ukrainian military blogger, says that the organization of drone operations is the prime indicator of the quality of command in any given military unit.

The concept of a “drone” covers a wide array of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) ranging from million-dollar devices capable of carrying heavy explosives to cheaper models that can be bought online.

A number of initiatives and companies are working on developing Ukrainian drones while government-supported initiatives focus on acquiring more sophisticated reconnaissance or attack drones.

Still, DJI Mavic 3 commercial drones remain the main go-to of Ukrainian troops because of their accessibility and availability. Soldiers buy them on their own or rely on donations by ordinary Ukrainians and volunteers.

The importance of drones makes their operators prime targets for Russian artillery. Ali says that he sometimes has to hide from the shelling while at the same time operating a drone kilometers away that is flying kilometers away.EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button