Ukrainian citizens are using personal drones to spy on Russian troops

“I know many examples where it saved the life of our Ukrainian people.”

Ukraine’s drone community is rallying behind its military, donating their consumer drones to the fight against the Russian invasion.

“Why are we doing this? We have no other choice. This is our land, our home,” Denys Sushko, head of operations at Kyiv-based drone manufactuer DroneUA, told AP News.

The need: Consumer drones don’t carry weapons, but most do come with camera systems and some are even equipped with night vision or heat-sensing tech — that can make them useful for military reconnaissance.

“Drones are a great tool for getting real-time data.”

Denys Sushko

Choice clips of drone footage — like this one depicting the aftermath of Russia’s attack on Borodyanka — can also help Ukraine rally support from the world outside its borders.

“[Drone] video can be sent viral across YouTube or Instagram or Twitter — you name it,” ​​P.W. Singer, a political scientist and expert on modern warfare, told AP News. 

The call to action: On February 25 — one day after Russia invaded Ukraine — Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense used a Facebook post to reach out to the nation’s drone community.

“Do you own a drone? Give it to experienced pilots to use!” it wrote. “Do you know how to drive a drone? Join the joint patrol with units 112 of the separate brigade of the city of Kyiv!”

“Kyiv needs you and your drone at this moment of fury!” it added.

The response: It’s hard to say exactly how many Ukranians have volunteered their drones so far, but at least one — Taras Troiak, a businessman who started a drone retailer in Kyiv — has donated approximately 100 drones to the cause.

“Civilian users, military users, everybody just started to use those drones to find some enemies in our country, and it’s helpful,” Troiak told AP News. “And I know many examples where it saved the life of our Ukrainian people.”

The danger: Flying a drone over Ukraine is risky right now — most of the drones in use are made by China’s DJI and include a technology called “AeroScope” that makes it possible to pinpoint the location of a drone’s operator.

“The risk to civilian drone operators inside Ukraine is still great,” Mike Monnik, an Australian drone security expert, told AP News. “Locating the operator’s location could result in directed missile fire, given what we’ve seen in the fighting so far.”

Sushko, who has been lending his drone expertise to the Ukrainian military, said that he and other experts have been teaching civilian operators “tricks” to help them avoid detection.

“We try to use absolutely everything that can help protect our country, and drones are a great tool for getting real-time data,” he said. “Now in Ukraine no one remains indifferent. Everyone does what they can.”

We’d love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at [email protected].

Boosted Breeding and beyond: 3 tech trends that could end world hunger
A world without hunger is possible, and the development and deployment of new farming technologies could be one key to manifesting it.
Autonomous tech is taking over last-mile delivery
Autonomous robots, drones, and even underground tunnels could be the standard for last-mile delivery in the future.
Amazon’s Prime Air is coming to a new US city
Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery service is expanding to three new cities and adding a drug-delivery option in an existing one.
Watch a startup drop science experiments from 2,000 feet up
To help scientists conduct microgravity experiments, UK startup Gravitilab has developed a drone that drops them from high above the Earth.
Xwing puts autonomous flight on the runway to approval
Autonomous flight startup Xwing has filed for approval to do crewless cargo flights, a first step towards pilotless commercial aviation.
Up Next
pregnant dolphins
Subscribe to Freethink for more great stories