Less than a week after Ukraine officials called on private citizens to put their drones to use in defending cities from invading Russian forces, signs are accumulating that consumer UAVs are increasingly taking to the air – and flowing in from abroad – for operation in the conflict.
As DroneDJ reported over the weekend, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry posted a Facebook message appealing to owners of small drones to use them for unspecified missions with “units 112 of the separate brigade of the city of Kyiv.” People could alternatively donate them to Ukraine forces who would fly them in their defense against Russian troops, the appeal read. Now additional information is arising indicating that consumer UAVs are also being supplied by both official and private sources abroad to assist Ukraine battle invading Russian troops.
On Thursday, Latvian television and radio reported 90 commercial drones have been delivered to Ukrainian Armed forces for deployment in the effort to turn back Russian Army advances. Its site said the craft were donated by Latvian companies as part of a broader effort to help Ukraine repel the invasion.
The portal cited in the report is a general tool for people and companies seeking to help Ukraine through donations, or by assisting refugees fleeing the violence. But the report also provides an email contact at Latvia’s Defense Ministry to facilitate donations of “personal equipment for the Ukrainian armed forces.” It emphasizes, however, dual-use items – such as drones that could be flown for surveillance and other military purposes – must be provided “by specially licensed companies, (and) cannot be purchased by private individuals.”
Anecdotal evidence of similar provision of commercial drones to forces in Ukraine resisting the Russian offensive have arisen elsewhere.
On Wednesday the highly respected sector veteran and current Auterion vice president of public safety, Romeo Durscher, said he’s hearing of dealers in European Union countries at the perimeter of the conflict reporting depleted drone supplies. In a pair of tweets, he revealed:
Been talking to a friend in Kiev. They are trying to get more quick deploy drones to Poland. After talking to several colleagues/dealers in Eastern EU; seems there is no inventory. Anyone know of any availability, 20+? Small, quick deploy, zoom or thermal #UkraineCrisis
Update: gotten a few leads of small/quick deploy drone inventories and passed them on to Kiev. Keep reaching out; there is purchasing power but finding inventory in EU is difficult. Would ship to Poland. #Ukriane
For the moment, it appears those drones are intended for use in relatively localized Ukrainian surveillance of nearby Russian forces, and possible mid-range monitoring of somewhat more remote positions or advances.
There has been at least one unsubstantiated claim on Reddit of commercial UAVs being used to “drop Molotov’s and grenades on the Russians.” However, that may well have been anticipating thus far unconfirmed efforts to weaponize private craft in ways that had been witnessed in the past during fighting between Ukraine forces and backers of pro-Russia breakaway territories in the east of the country.