Drones in Ukraine Aiding in Surveillance Efforts

Like most of the world, you probably watched in horror as Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

In Europe’s largest military attack since World War II, Russian forces began a hostile campaign, already leading to a major humanitarian crisis.  

Governments worldwide denounced Russia’s actions, imposing heavy sanctions on the country.

As the world reacts to the violence, the people of Ukraine are undoubtedly suffering the most.

Outside of Ukraine, Russia’s citizens bear the weight of sanctions, while the rest of the world feels the crunch of rising fuel costs and uncertainty of the European landscape.

While it’s certainly a lot to take in, the drone community is stepping up in a big way.

If you are following the news of the conflict, you may have noticed that drones in Ukraine are becoming a critical component of defense.

Drones in Ukraine

It is no secret that military drones are more popular than ever.

You often hear about precision strikes on high-value targets, or see drone surveillance on the nightly news.

But, have you noticed the rising importance of non-military consumer drones

Though, not typically designed for warfare, they do have several useful attributes for intelligence gathering and protecting civilians.

In fact, even modestly-priced consumer drones now have high-quality payloads.  

While many UAVs come standard with 20MP/4K cameras, for slightly more, you can buy low-resolution FLIR cameras as well.

It’s an appealing, low-cost option which the drone community from around the world is ready to provide.

Soon after the attack began, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense took to Facebook to request help from willing owners of drones in Ukraine.

In the translated post, they pleaded, “join the joint patrolling with units 112 separate brigade of the city of Kiev,” along with several calls to action.

Ukraine’s UAV community answered the call.

In one case, an entrepreneur in Kyiv who sells DJI drones dispersed between 100-300 drones to help the cause.

While there are no concrete numbers of how many people answered the call to assist with consumer drones, reports suggest it’s been well-received.

Civilians are offering not only their drones to military members, but also accepting on-the-fly training as well.

Governments Also Offer Drone Assistance to Ukraine

Consumer drones in Ukraine are already helping to locate Russian forces, move civilians out of harm’s way, and plan the force’s movements.

Outside of Ukraine, countries around the world are sending drones and UAV components.

According to Latvian television, the government donated 90 consumer drones to the Ukrainian armed forces, in an effort to halt the advance of Russian troops. 

As part of a $50 million aid package, Canada is sending “highly specialized equipment” in the form of cameras for surveillance drones.

Though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed the challenges of getting the cameras to Ukrainian forces, they are nonetheless on their way. 

Others are pledging considerable financial aid.

The United Kingdom has already pledged £400 million, while the United States just approved $13.6 billion in assistance to Ukraine.

The aid to Ukraine isn’t limited to official government deals, however.

Plenty of private companies and individuals in the drone community are stepping up to the challenge.

Drone Community Volunteers to Aid Ukraine

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine led to a host of volunteers from the drone community to rally to the cause.

In one example, a group of volunteers from Finland flew 140 DJI Mavic Mini drones to Ukraine.

The group started a fundraiser for the purpose, collecting more than $57,000.

Before flying to Ukraine (by way of Poland) the group even charged the drone batteries to prepare them for immediate use. 

The software development company, Skylum, also joined the cause.

Initially founded in Ukraine in 2008, the company is asking for drone donations.

In a blog on their website, the company states, “Donate your drone, so we can ensure the safety of Ukrainian citizens. Your drone will remain unarmed and will be used for surveillance purposes only.”

On March 2, Pix4D offered its support to the people of Ukraine.

In a post on Twitter, the company said, “Pix4D will be supporting the people in Ukraine, and our thoughts and prayers are with all the people affected by this tragedy. We are donating free licenses to people in Ukraine.”

The tweet continued and Ukrainian citizens were given an email to request the license.

The Takeaways

It’s far too early to tell the outcome of the invasion of Ukraine, but with each passing day, the crisis grows.

While most of us are forced to watch from the sidelines, we can take a small amount of comfort in knowing the larger drone community is doing what it can to support the people of Ukraine peacefully.

From official government aid packages to individuals banding together for a common cause, it’s a massive undertaking.

And, if drones can help save the lives of innocent people – whether in Ukraine or elsewhere – it’s a job well worth the effort.

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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