A 15-year-old amateur pilot in Ukraine has provided an excellent example of how consumer drones have become one of the worst – and deadliest – nightmares for Russian armed forces seeking to conquer the country, according to a report detailing the teen’s role in the destruction of a convoy advancing on Kyiv.
The account of how the adolescent flew his drone to pinpoint the precise location of the Russian column and supplied the information to Ukraine artillery units was reported by Canadian publication Global News. It describes how 15-year-old UAV enthusiast Andrii Pokrasa was solicited by forces defending the Kyiv area from a Russian offensive in late February. He stealthily flew the craft until he located the target, recorded its GPS data, and handed those to Ukraine fighters standing by with missiles.
“This kid sent GPS coordinates and Russians, after this, became dead,” said Taras Troiak, a drone sector professional who has worked to organize private pilots and procure off-the-shelf drones to assist Ukraine forces. “If we didn’t have such operators and drones who can help the Ukrainian army, I think Kyiv already could be occupied by Russian forces.”
Pokrasa’s action for his country began in late February, as the Russian column approached Kyiv from the west. A Ukraine civil defense commander – one of several people Global News interviewed to verify the account – contacted the teen as the only person in the area with a working drone.
“They provided us information where approximately the Russian column could be,” Pokrasa said. “Our goal was to find the exact coordinates and provide the coordinates to the soldiers.”
With neighbors worried the reconnaissance work might lead infuriated Russians to them, Pokrasa and his father flew night missions in a field in search of the column. They used a drone supplied by Ukraine forces with a longer range than his own craft, soon spotting the target about two kilometers away. The GPS data and photos were then sent to waiting artillery units.
“It was one of the biggest columns that was moving on the Zhytomyr road,” he says. “(W)e managed to find it because one of the trucks turned on its lights for a long time.”
As a result, the convoy was eliminated about 40 km outside of the capital.
What makes Pokrasa’s work even more surprising is he only began flying last summer, buying a drone with profits he and his father made dealing cryptocurrency. (The article includes a photo of the youth holding a DJI Mavic 3 Pro, though it’s unclear if that’s his own, or the one provided by defense forces.) That purchase turned out to be a very productive investment for Ukraine – and an equally costly one to the Russian army.
Troiak says Pokrasa’s involvement is similar to those of the over 1,000 private drone pilots who have joined the Facebook group he organized after Ukraine officials first called on enthusiasts to aid in the country’s defense against Russia. He says there’s no underestimating the result of that response.
“It’s a game-changer for the war,” Troiak said.