This article was published on July 25, 2022

Here’s how you can help build Ukraine’s drone army

Seeking "dronations" for reconnaissance to secure the skies


Here’s how you can help build Ukraine’s drone army
Cate Lawrence
Story by

Cate Lawrence

Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart ci Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart cities, and the future of alternative energy sources like electric batteries, solar, and hydrogen.

Earlier this month, Ukraine launched a campaign to assemble the world’s first “Army of Drones.” It called on the international community to donate funds towards new drones or to “dronate” their own recreational and commercial drones. 

That’s because Ukraine’s military doesn’t have an official drone unit, so drones supplied and funded globally will play a critical part in protecting the country against Russian occupation. 

The initiative is facilitated by President Zelensky’s global fundraising initiative, UNITED24, together with the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Digital Transformation.

How are drones used in warfare? 

Drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles) have long been a part of warfare in many parts of the world. 

Small drones allow reconnaissance, detect the location of enemy forces, equipment, and ammunition depots, and adjust fire at a short distance remotely. 

Military drones do the same, but at greater distances, covering larger frontline sections with the capacity to continually monitor an area for two days while flying at a distance of up to 160 km (almost 100 miles). 

Drone footage of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Image credit:  СмdяСояd

The military can use them to attack targets such as ammunition dumps and artillery fires on enemy positions.

Military drones come with numerous thermographic cameras with position sensors. They are also used for signal relaying, patrolling borders, and monitoring critical infrastructure such as utility suppliers.

According to Colonel Oleksii Noskov, Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the drones donated and funded through the campaign will allow the military to constantly monitor the 2,470km-long frontline.

What kinds of drones can I donate? 

 

Hundreds of Lithuanians are clubbing together to buy an advanced military drone for Ukraine in its war against Russia, in a show of solidarity with a fellow country formerly under Moscow’s rule. Image credit: Just Click’s With A Camera

We spoke to Yuriy Shchygol, Head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine, who told us that Ukraine is seeking drones for aerial surveillance. 

Tactical drones are particularly in demand as they are difficult to detect and, thus, challenging for the enemy to take down.

These should come equipped with 

  • A battery of 5000mAh+
  • A flight range of 1km+
  • A camera of20MP+

Shchygol noted, “Our defenders will be especially grateful for a drone with a thermographic camera.”

The military also needs thousands of ordinary civilian drones. They can be new or used.

Shchygol stressed that the number of required ordinary civilian drones is immense and in the thousands: “Every frontline unit needs drones.”

What about electronic espionage? 

We asked Shchygol about the security of the critical data captured by drones. He explained that the military is taking steps to prevent sensitive information from falling into unauthorized hands. 

All drones are tested in the combat environment before being deployed to prevent the risk of electronic countermeasures (such as hacking, remotely disabling drones, or shooting at drones) in occupied territories by the Russian federation.

To date, there have been no proposals from Chinese suppliers.

What has been the impact of the campaign so far? 

The first day of the campaign raised more than $2.86 million, which grew to $6.8 million in less than two weeks. 

Funding doesn’t only cover drone acquisition, but also their repair and the cost of training military personnel in using them.

Want to donate a drone?

Of course, you do! You can send appropriately packed drones to the US or Poland —-  here are all the details.

tactical surveillance
Meet Drony McDroneFace: In service with the Ukrainian Army from 13 June 2022. Image credit: Adopt a Drone

People in Estonia can also contribute to the Adopt a Drone program. The funded drones include “Welcome to Ukraine, Suka” and “Drony McDrone Face.”

The Ukrainian Yellow Blue Foundation is also fundraising for drones to assist in the removal of landmines. Flown in remote surveillance, they can identify explosive landmines to aid in their removal. 

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