Army of drones concept

Ukrainian government requests ‘dronations’ to build an army of drones

Image credit: Foto 152354569 © Feverpitched |

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested public "dronations" to help the country build an army of 200 military reconnaissance drones as part of the war effort.

The wars of the 21st century are being fought in the sky and with the latest technology, as shown by Ukraine's commitment to build an "army of drones" that will support the country's resistance against the Russian invasion that began in February.

With this goal in mind, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has created a global donation initiative called United24. The project calls for international donors to provide funds that the Ukrainian military will use to purchase drones, as well as direct "dronations" of unmanned aerial vehicles.

"The 'army of drones' will allow us to constantly monitor the 2,470km-long [1,530-mile] front line and to field an effective response to enemy attacks, using modern technology," said Col Oleksii Noskov, assistant commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. 

The country has already received around 200m Ukrainian hryvnia (over £5.6m) for the initiative, according to Ukraine's Minister of Digital Transformation and Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, who revealed that the Ukrainian army had also purchased at least two unmanned "Warmate" systems, drones that can be equipped with high explosives for kamikaze-style attacks

Fedorov told the BBC via email that the first goal of the campaign was to purchase tactical drones which have a 160km (100-mile) range and are equipped with sophisticated cameras, GPS and mapping tools. Nonetheless, "Ukraine's army still needed quadcopters", he said, leading the government to request donations of drones from both private citizens and businesses.

"This project is a great opportunity for drone manufacturers to test their equipment in harsh conditions," he wrote.

Ukrainian and Russian forces have both used small consumer drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), in the war effort. These devices have been used during the war to provide a live view of the enemy's position and enhance decision-making.

However, according to Justin Bronk of the Royal Unite Services Institute, military tactics are already adapting to counter the advantages that small drones might provide. 

"Both sides in Ukraine have been able to very rapidly exploit that real-time video picture, to call down artillery fire and quickly correct it so that it's very, very accurate, even when using old-school unguided artillery, onto enemy forces," he said.

Bronk also stressed the importance of grassroots support for the war in terms of generating military equipment, such as commercial drones. According to the expert, these weapons are "probably of as much value in terms of morale for the people who are contributing, as well as the people on the front lines".

During the course of the war, Ukrainians have been very inventive in finding ways to source and then use commercial, as well as military-grade, drones, including using them as improvised loitering munitions to strike targets at a significant distance, such as an oil refinery in Rostov that was recently stricken with a commercial-grade UAV with an improvised warhead.

"It doesn't matter if your drone is new or old, it just has to be in working order," reads a call for donations posted to the United24 website.

Earlier this year, market leader DJI halted sales of its drone technology in both Ukraine and Russia after Fedorov called on the company to stop supporting the invasion, stating that Putin's administration was using the devices to "strike and conduct reconnaissance in their unprovoked and unfair war".

"Every drone saves lives and brings our victory closer," Fedorov says in a video shared on the project site.

"We will buy the drone ourselves, or give us yours – dronate it! This is a war of technology."

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