Drones of domestic production have repeatedly confirmed their high efficiency during the Russian-Ukrainian war. Since 2014, their developers have improved existing models and created completely new ones. But along that front line, they also carried out active work in this direction. Both we and they used the experience of foreign manufacturers, and primarily the United States, China and the EU.
What drones of domestic (and not only) production are used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine? What can the aggressor country oppose to them? Read about it in our material.
The first Ukrainian drones appeared in 2014
The first Ukrainian UAVs appeared after the start of the war in Donbass. To create them, specialists in aircraft modeling sports, volunteers and the military were involved.
Since then, drones have been repeatedly improved, making them more autonomous and smarter. All this was done in order to improve their flight characteristics. An example is the modified PD-2 drone models (Ukrspecsystems), which are based on the VTOL hybrid platform. It allows them to take off and land vertically, as well as take to the skies with a fixed wing and landing gear (this is done in 15 minutes). That is, without any labor and improvised materials, the take-off and landing of the drone, its wingspan, endurance, take-off weight and payload weight change. They can take off from the patch and land in a limited space. These models are often used for mining, aerial photography, and human settlement mapping.
The PD-2 is a constructor drone whose model can be easily modified. It has a top speed of up to 140 km/h. The drone is controlled from the ground control station, it has modern software.
Another example is the unmanned aerial vehicles from Skyeton Raybird. They have an injection engine and are able to rise into the air with the help of a catapult. The drones have a maximum speed of 110 km/h and a maximum flight altitude of up to 3.5 km.
PD-2 and Raybird are some of the best drones in Ukraine that can stay in the air for a long time (from 8 to 28 hours). The Raybird is even used in the Persian Gulf for monitoring missions and to keep ships moving.
How are Ukrainian drones protected from enemy electronic warfare?
Ukraine independently produces housings and part of electronics for copters. The first versions of unmanned equipment used available controllers and software. Then they were modified in order to better counteract the means of electronic warfare. They also provide additional protection against interference. In addition, an algorithm for automatically exiting the affected area is provided. The latter function is mandatory for all modern drones.
Drone Spectator is a joint development of scientists from the KPI and JSC “Meridian”. The UAV has been repeatedly upgraded to improve its aerodynamics, stealth and protection from electronic warfare systems. Thanks to this, it can fly for more than two hours and cover an area with a radius of up to 30 km. This is a classic reconnaissance drone, which was actively used not only in the east of our country, but also on our northern borders.
“Bereginya” are small high-speed quadrocopters that help our military on the battlefield. But this is not the final development. Now the author of the Bereginya project, Maxim Sheremet, is working on the creation of a new fleet of high-speed drones that would facilitate the work of both volunteers and the military.
“Bereginya” was one of the first prototypes of quadrocopters with a maximum speed of 120 km/h. Modern high-speed drones have a speed indicator of up to 240 km/h.
The Beregini carbon frame is 3D printed. Thanks to this, the drone weighs only 2 kg. Despite this, the material from which it is made is not only lightweight, but also very durable. All these components make the quadrocopter quite mobile, inexpensive and effective for reconnaissance purposes.
Two cameras are installed on the Beregina – digital and analog, which transmit the captured video to both the pilot and the ground station. Its more secure communication channels protect the operator from hostile electronic warfare.
Furiya was designed and developed by Athlone Avia in 2014. Basically, the drone is used for day and night reconnaissance, as well as to correct artillery fire. This UAV was adopted by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and has been actively used on the battlefield over the past eight years. In total, the Ukrainian defenders have more than 300 such UAVs at their disposal.
The Furiya complex consists of three aircraft, five payload modules (day and night) and television cameras. After modernization, more modern data transmission systems (NATO MGRS and APP-6B) were added to it. The latest Fury models are completely autonomous, they automatically identify and accompany the target. Drones even return back without the use of satellite systems. They also easily locate Russian EW stations.
“Furiya” is equipped with an electric motor that allows it to stay in the air for up to three hours. Its maximum speed is 65 km/h, its flight range is 200 km and its range is 50 km. It is controlled by one or two operators, depending on the military task.
“Leleka-100”, created from domestic components by the Dnieper company “DeViro”, is the most important and massive reconnaissance drone of our army. He always works in cooperation with artillery brigades (self-propelled guns “Gvozdika”, “Acacia”, MLRS “Grad” and so on). The Ukrainian army received 300 of these drones.
“Leleka-100” is not only an all-weather, but also a “round-the-clock” drone. It is resistant to hostile radio interference and satellite navigation blocking. At the same time, he is able to fly up to 120 km / h. Thanks to the modular design, you can quickly change its functionality and equipment. It is used both individually and in conjunction with the Bars armored car or the American Humvee SUV.
Heavy octocopters R18 are able to stay in the air for 40 minutes and fly up to 4 km. They, like the PD-2, are VTOL drones. Octocopters have eight lifting screws that can carry several kilograms of any load (capable of dropping anti-tank grenades).
Similar quadrocopters are used on both sides. Now the facts of the use of drones by Russians to drop explosives and bombs on the Ukrainian military have been confirmed. Usually these are large multi-rotor drones that can carry charges (VOG-17 fragmentation grenades) and drop them on the enemy.
Ukrainian kamikaze drones
Pilum is a teleoperated kamikaze drone with an optical guidance system. It was developed by the Ukrainian company ADrones. The projectile, as it is also called, can carry a warhead weighing up to 2 kg with a power plant and 5 kg with a planning bomb.
“Pіlum” is controlled by the operator, or he is homing to the target at predetermined coordinates. Thanks to this, the drone is launched both from the container and from the carrier drone. It is capable of flying for 30 minutes at a speed of 110 km/h.
RAM UAV is another Ukrainian kamikaze drone that was tested in Donbas in 2018. Thanks to composite materials, the quadcopter is hardly noticeable to air defense. The electric motor that was installed on it provides it with noiselessness and flight range (from 30 to 70 km / h in 40 minutes). RAM UAV is launched using a special catapult. This drone is capable of carrying thermobaric, cumulative and high-explosive fragmentation ammunition. It destroys light armored objects (such as tractors), industrial or fuel depots, and they are used against trenches and dugouts.
The main strike drones used by the Ukrainian army are Bayraktars. Unfortunately, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have them in small numbers.
“Bayraktar” not only destroys enemy equipment, but can also hold a huge line of defense (provided that there are many of them). The operator remotely controls the drone, which is in the air for 27 hours.
The small and agile Bayraktar is out of reach for Russian air defenses, as it is difficult for radars to detect. The drone is equipped with a Wescam camera (helps to monitor up to 50 km), a modern guidance system, an infrared camera and a laser rangefinder.
Bayraktar destroys targets with guided bombs and anti-tank missiles (ammunition with a range of 8–14 km). Its huge drawback is that in bad weather, its effectiveness drops significantly.
Thanks to the Bayraktar, the Ukrainian army managed to destroy a convoy of Russian equipment in the Kherson region, a Buk near Malin, 180 units of Russian military equipment in the Sumy region, the Uragan MLRS and the Pantsir air defense missile system. In addition, the drone eliminated one of the headquarters of the 35th army of Russia, several electronic warfare, and so on.
In addition to ground targets, Bayraktar is also effectively used against enemy ships and helicopters. According to unconfirmed information, it was he who played a key role in the destruction of the Moskva cruiser. Also on his track record are two boats of the Raptor project and a landing ship of the Chamois type. In addition, Bayraktar managed to shoot down a Russian Mi-8 helicopter.
The Rashists have their own radio intelligence apparatus manufactured by Zala Aero. According to them, a quadcopter equipped with a ZALA hybrid power plant (421-12E5G) can stay in the air for 12 hours and cover a distance of up to 1,000 km. And its AIVI intelligent processing system allows you to quickly obtain information about its location and the number of detected objects. Zala Aero is used to protect state borders, reconnaissance and rescue operations, monitoring critical infrastructure (oil and gas).
“ CUBE “
KUB is also a kamikaze drone, created in 2019 by the Kalashnikov concern. Before the war, nothing was known about its practical application. The manufacturer’s promotional materials note that the drone can automatically find targets on the battlefield and attack equipment.
The KUB drone consists of a carrier, a control system, navigation and a charge installed on it (which weighs 3 kg). It is almost silent and very easy to operate. The drone operates in three modes: aims and immediately attacks the target, self-destructs and parachutes and waits for the victim.
When trying to attack the Kyiv Podil, one of the KUBs was shot down by representatives of the local defense forces from automatic weapons.
The Orion is a 1,000 kg mid-altitude reconnaissance and strike drone capable of flying long distances. It was created as a response to the popular models of American shock drones of the last century.
These UAVs can be used to strike with chemical weapons. Orion can carry up to 40 kg of sarin, 1700 mg of which is enough to fatally poison a person. The radius of destruction of chemical weapons depends on weather conditions, the type and amount of the active substance, as well as the method of spraying.
As a payload, Orion can carry up to 6 different charges – from guided missiles to bombs. Most of the components for Orion were purchased abroad. Due to sanctions and the blocking of the work of the Kronstadt company, the manufacturer of the drone, the production of these drones has become impossible.
One of these copters, which had up to 200 kg of explosives on board, was shot down in the sky over the Kherson region.
“Orlan-10” and “Orlan-30”
Basically, Russian copters are made from foreign components. Therefore, most of their parts cannot be replaced by Russian counterparts. Because of this, various funny things happen. For example, “under the hood” of one of the downed Orlans, our soldiers found not a special surveillance camera, but the most common Canon camera. In addition, they used a plastic bottle and a cap for it as the neck of the fuel tank. Yes, hull elements and some components of fuel systems can be made in Russia. However, controllers, intelligent control systems and sensors cannot be created by Russians.
The only thing they can do is use some sensors and materials made in China. However, here we are not talking about modern and competitive weapons, but only about alternative systems that are a generation behind their Western counterparts.
Just like the Orions, the Orlans have a long flight duration. They are equipped with a reconnaissance system and electronic warfare equipment. Despite their technological backwardness, Russia has “stamped” them in sufficient numbers. Therefore, they have become one of our biggest problems. Only bad weather and low clouds can save them.
Our volunteers have been buying Autel EVO 2 for the needs of the Armed Forces for many years. According to our fighters, this model has proven itself very well in battles with the invaders. Its biggest advantage is that it is almost unaffected by enemy EW weapons. That is, the enemy will not be able to change the coordinates of the drone and pick it up or land it in a neutral zone.
Autel EVO 2 is equipped with a thermal imager, an infrared camera and an 8K video camera. Thanks to this, it has eight flight and shooting modes. The copter supports return to the place of departure in case of loss of communication with the operator.
The technical advantage of Autel is that it provided the opportunity to replace the camera. It is equipped with optical and ultrasonic detectors. The AI-controlled quadcopter models a 3D terrain map that allows it to avoid obstacles. The copter is able to recognize up to 64 objects (people, animals and cars), determine their location and speed. Its maximum speed reaches 72 km/h.
Switchblade 300 and 600
AeroVironment’s Switchblade drones are capable of automatically finding a target (such as heavy equipment) and neutralizing it. That is, operator intervention is not required.
Thanks to its small dimensions, Switchblade can fit in a backpack. It weighs a little more than 2.7 kg, its range is up to 10 km. The drone is equipped with a camera and explosives, it is launched using a special tube-tube (after leaving it, it “spreads” its wings and turns into a cruise missile). It is often referred to as “stealth munition” as it is able to discreetly identify targets and destroy them. Different versions of the Switchblade can fly between 15 and 40 minutes at distances of 10 to 40 km. The drone can reach speeds up to 160 km/h.
Switchblade 600 is designed to destroy heavy equipment, in particular tanks and armored personnel carriers. It weighs just over 23 kg and has a range of over 40 km. The new Switchblade models can travel over 39 km and standby for 40 minutes before striking a target. Unlike its predecessor, it can reach speeds of up to 185 km/h. The drone operator controls it with a tablet and can manually guide the drone to the target.
Kamikaze drones are launched both from the ground or a car, and from a ship or aircraft. Some UAVs are launched using large drones.
According to US media, the US government has sent at least 300 Switchblade drones to Ukraine.
The MQ-9 Reaper is a heavy reconnaissance and strike drone. It outperforms the Bayraktar in many ways and can be more effectively used to destroy heavy vehicles such as tanks, artillery and anti-aircraft systems.
The Reaper has a longer range, is taller and faster, and can carry more deadly payloads. There are several versions of the drone, one of which (extended range) has a long flight range – up to 2575 km. Reaper can also be used for reconnaissance behind enemy lines. If necessary, he is able to fly to Moscow.
For all its advantages, the Reaper has never been used in full-scale wars. It was used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, where the enemy did not have a serious air defense. Therefore, Russian fighters and air defense can become a big problem for these drones.
It should also be noted that the MQ-9 Reaper is much more expensive than the Bayraktar.
Few people know, but the name of this drone, in fact, can be interpreted in different ways. In the first, literal translation, reaper really means “reaper” or “gatherer”. But the second option is much more interesting: the fact is that in English there is a stable phrase the Grim Reaper, which literally means “grim reaper”. But in fact, it is translated as “death” or “old woman with a scythe.”
The RQ-11B is a small reconnaissance drone with a range of 10 km and the ability to stay in the air for 60 to 90 minutes. This is a very popular aerial reconnaissance instrument. 72 such drones are already in service with the Ukrainian army.
The exact capabilities and characteristics of the Phoenix Ghost are being kept under wraps. It is only known that it is very similar to the Switchblade, that is, it is a kind of kamikaze drone. The drone is designed for tactical operations and strikes against military targets. Like the Switchblade, the Phoenix Ghost turns around after launch, hovering over a target and exploding upon impact. It also sends video to the operator during targeting.
It is very easy to operate, so it can be used by operators without special training.
According to American media, Phoenix Ghost was developed by the US Air Force specifically for the Ukrainian military.
Puma is an example of reliable aerial reconnaissance equipment. It has a simple design and a modern data management system. The operators of these drones note their super resistance to mechanical damage when used in combat.
The drone is launched by hand, controlled by a control system, it can operate in automatic mode.
DJI drones are the most popular on the Ukrainian market (and not only), so they have been used most often since the beginning of hostilities. Thanks to volunteers, the Armed Forces of Ukraine received more than 300 units of this type of UAV. In most cases, these were Matrice, Mavic and Phantom quadcopters.
Mavic is a small quadcopter with a range of 3.5 to 30 km (depending on the model) and the ability to stay in the air for up to 27 minutes. DJI has developed two models of Mavic 2 quadcopters – 2Pro and Zoom. Outwardly, they are completely similar, so you can tell them apart only by the camera.
The Phantom has a range of 1 to 7 km (depending on the model), a maximum flight altitude of 6 km (all models). The maximum duration of stay in the air is 25-30 minutes.
DJI was used both for reconnaissance, fire adjustments, and to strike at hostile targets. Usually ordinary grenades, grenades from grenade launchers and so on are attached to them. Both sides did it.
Advantages and disadvantages of drones
A drone is a consumable item designed for two or three sorties. After that, he is either shot down, or suppressed with the help of electronic warfare, or his operator is neutralized. At one time, Russia bought a lot of them – about one and a half thousand. In our country, at the beginning of the war, they were in limited quantities, so we are forced to constantly reduce this gap.
Modern Russian drones do not have artificial intelligence, so they are still remotely controlled by the operator. All they could do was develop medium-range UAVs that are not capable of performing combat missions in winter or autumn. Unfortunately, some of our drones also have this drawback.
To avoid this, our volunteers purchase small short-range copters. Thanks to this, they become almost invulnerable to small arms, machine guns and MANPADS / SAMs (first of all, we are talking about Autel and DJI).
Also, the experience of this war showed that drones with gasoline engines have advantages in flight range, but at the same time they are easily shot down with the help of MANPADS. It is difficult to hit only drones with a high flight altitude of 1.5–2 km. They leave a thermal trail, on which the MANPADS missile head is very well driven. This is how both our and Russian drones are shot down.
According to the published reports of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, downed Russian drones mainly consist of imported components (electronics, engines and optics). The exception is the elements of the supporting structure and the frame. Also, their specialists often overestimate their achievements and the cost of equipment. That is, some characteristics are written on paper, but in reality they are fighting with outdated weapons.