Ukraine is vastly expanding the pilot training component of its Army of Drones initiative that collects donations from around the world to buy UAVs and strengthen the nation’s aerial defensive assets battling Russia’s invasion.
According to news reports from Ukraine, officials overseeing the Army of Drones drive have added ten new pilot training schools to the two they initially tapped when funds began flowing into the project. The move reflects the positive response from around that world that has thus far financed the purchase of around 500 UAVs of various kinds. Officials say that while that early support is encouraging and considerable, the country still needs far more craft to push Russian forces back – as well as more operators capable of effectively flying those assets.
To meet that demand, Ukraine authorities have recruited 10 more schools to train pilots for the enlarged drone fleet the fundraising campaign has already financed, as well as additional craft that will be bought to expand. The two organizations recruited earlier in the operation have produced 400 military-grade operators, with the extra 10 centers expected to instruct thousands more on techniques like camouflaging craft, military flight tasks, and effective navigation in both stable and hostile environments.
Most of those newly minted Ukraine drone pilots were trained by Dronarium, which graduated an additional 150 operators for deployment at the end of July.
Instructors at the school told the Kyiv Independent that fully 95% of craft crashes in earlier phases of the war were due to insufficient controller abilities by operators who’d been handed UAVs with little or no training. The organization – along with the 11 other schools that have joined the Army of Drones campaign – are looking to slash those losses to as close to zero as possible.
Dronarium operates training facilities in Kyiv and Lviv, and has plans on opening additional centers in other cities. Its objective is to turn out 500 qualified drone pilots per month for Ukraine’s defensive efforts, using both simulators and DJI and Autel craft to teach skill levels ranging from basic flight in recon or situational awareness missions, to headier combat scenarios.
Officials at Dronarium say 95% of graduates are dispatched immediately to frontline areas to put their abilities to work, and stress the exponential contributions that each capable drone pilot makes to Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
“It needs to be understood that one professional operator means hundreds or thousands of saved military and civilian Ukrainian lives,” the school told the Kyiv Independent in a written statement. “Ukraine now holds first place in the world by use of drones, primarily civilian models that have been repurposed for military uses.”
An Armed Forces UAV trainer told the site that the Army of Drones initiative – and its increased focus on pilot training – was the result of officials recognizing just how critical effective deployment of those small craft has been in allowing Ukraine fight a far larger and better equipped army to a standstill.
“Until recently, we did not realize how important this is, to have ubiquitous drone capacity throughout the armed forces,” the train said, using an alias for security reasons. “There didn’t use to be a concept that every battalion needs drone operators. There are a lot of battalions that might need not one operator but three or more.”