Ukraine’s military has embarked on a project to build an ‘Army of Drones,’ as part of which the country has signed contracts worth UAH 260.5 million (US$ 7.1 million), as per an announcement by the Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, on July 25.
Ukraine intends to acquire 200 tactical unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles to constantly monitor the front line and identify the Russian positions as part of its Army of Drones project, announced by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s global donation initiative United24.
The project calls for international donations to raise funds for the Ukrainian military to acquire drones, including direct “donations” of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Additionally, donations will also be used for the maintenance of drones and pilot training.
Ukraine has launched the “Army of Drones” initiative to procure thousands of drones and the operators to handle them.
The idea could enable Ukrainian forces to recon Russian positions without putting lives at risk. https://t.co/H45FDQx5DI
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) July 26, 2022
The first contracts signed under the Army of Drones project include 78 Matrice multi-copters equipped with artificial intelligence technology and 20 Polish-made Fly Eye reconnaissance drones.
The Matrice multi-copters are commercial drones that will record high-quality videos and remotely identify potential dangers.
While the Fly Eye drones, described by Fedorov as the “superstar purchase,” will be used to surveillance Russian-occupied positions. It is also the most expensive drone purchased as part of the ‘Army of Drones’ project using funds donated by the international space technology and IT entrepreneur Maksym Polyakov.
Fly Eye Reconnaissance Drones
Developed by the Polish Defense company WB Electronics, Fly Eye is a mini -UAV that can be used to determine target coordinates for artillery operations.
The drone is equipped with a three-bladed propeller powered by an electric motor. It measures 1.9 meters in length and has a wingspan of 3.6 meters. The body of the UAV is made of composite materials, with the UAV weighing 11 kilograms.
The UAV is launched from hands and can be recovered using parachutes. It can attain a maximum flight speed of 160 km/h and an altitude of four kilometers and remain in the sky for two to three hours, depending on weather conditions. The drone can be operated at a distance of up to 50 kilometers from the operator.
Furthermore, it is easy to assemble and take apart the various components of the drone, and as per the claims by WB Electronics, the drone can be prepared for operation in only ten minutes.
The Fly Eye has a new optoelectronic surveillance system, an infrared (IR) camera, and a laser target highlighter. It is controlled using different software, which includes the proprietary software, the Topaz software for artillery fire control, and SKOM software for mortar fire control.
A beautiful video of Ukrainian artillery striking Russian positions.
The artillery fire is directed from this FlyEye drone provided by Poland through @WBGroup_PL.
The Polish drones are doing a great job over the skies of Ukraine.
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) March 20, 2022
The Polish Army has operated the drone since 2018. In July 2019, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) and WB Group signed an agreement after which the Fly Eye UAVs were upgraded to meet the NATO standards, enhancing the Polish Army’s interoperability with NATO countries.
The Ukrainian military has been using Fly Eye drones since 2015 against the Russian separatist forces in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
The latest batch of drones must be the upgraded variant used by NATO countries called Fly Eye 3.0, as per the video released by the official Twitter handle of the United24 initiative.
So far, the Ukrainian forces have reportedly used the Fly Eye drones for 34 combat missions inside the enemy-controlled area since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where these drones have detected around 309 enemy targets.
Warmate Kamikaze Drones
Besides the Fly Eye reconnaissance drones, Ukraine has also ordered two ground-based systems for 20 Warmate kamikaze attack drones using the funds from Monobank.
Also developed by WB Electronics, Warmate is described as a Polish alternative to American Switchblade drones discussed in detail by Eurasian Times here.
It is a small drone launched using a pneumatic catapult and can carry high-explosive, cumulative, or thermobaric warheads weighing up to one kilogram. The drone can be used against enemy staff vehicles, radar systems, surface-to-air missiles (SAM) batteries, and other lightly armored objects.
Warmate dives from an altitude of 150-300 meters to hit the target from above on the most vulnerable part, as was seen in a video released by the Ukrainian intelligence on July 22, showing a Warmate loitering munition striking a Russian military camp in occupied Enerhodar, in the northwest Zaporizhzhia region.
As stated before, the Fly Eye, Matrice Multicopter, and Warmate are only the first few of many drones Ukraine intends to purchase as part of its Army of Drones project.
As of July 30, more than 630 million UAH (US$ 7.1 million) have been donated worldwide for this project, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation.
Around 400 Ukrainian soldiers are prepared to work as drone operators within the Army of Drones project. Currently, the drone operators are being trained in two schools, but another ten schools will soon be added to train more operators.
“As part of the program, servicemen learn drone control and camouflage skills, practice flight tasks, and develop drone control tactics,” the ministry said on July 30.