Since the beginning of the war waged by Russia against Ukraine, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles has become an indispensable part of combat operations, and the demand for them by the Ukrainian military has grown rapidly. In response, dozens – if not hundreds – of Ukrainian businesses large and small have launched their own developments.
One of the most popular drones in the Ukrainian army – SHARK, which can fly at a distance of 80 kilometers, maintaining contact, also appeared after February 24, 2022. In one year, the production of these drones has grown hundreds of times, the company Ukrspecsystems, whose product is the unmanned aircraft, told DV. Things are developing in a similar way with many other Ukrainian developments.
How are drones produced in Ukraine?
In one of the workshops of the private aviation production company “Skaeton”, the work does not stop even at night, DV reporters found. The biggest issue that worries all employees is security. Because of this, production is spread over different locations. The devices of this company – Raybird-3 – have been in service with the Ukrainian army since 2018.
The drones produced by “Skaeton” can fly at a distance of 100-120 kilometers, which allows conducting reconnaissance missions in the deep rear of the enemy. The director of the company Andrey Fialkovski explains that one complex is produced per week. It includes three planes, a catapult, two ground stations, an antenna unit and a set of spare parts. Fialkovski points out that what before 2022 was developed for a whole year, now has to be done in a few weeks.
Ukrainian reconnaissance drones and kamikaze drones
Among the reconnaissance drones produced in Ukraine, along with SHARK and Raybird-3, popular among the military are unmanned complexes
“Aist-100” (“Stork-100”), “Fury”, “Valkyrie”, PD-2 (People’s Drone). Of the drones whose technology allows you to see what the drone “sees” during the flight, experts pay attention to the Pegasus, Bucephalus, Kazhan and Vampir devices, which can also throw ammunition.
One of the most mysterious Ukrainian developments is the Beaver kamikaze drone of the private company UkrJet. According to media reports, it can fly 1,000 kilometers away, but there is no official information on the matter. It is assumed that the “Beavers” have already repeatedly attacked targets in Moscow. Another Ukrainian kamikaze drone is “RUBAKA”, but not much is known about it either.
According to aviation expert Valery Romanenko, kamikaze drones are Ukraine’s weak point. He is convinced that their production should be increased. “The amount of ‘Beavers’ and ‘RUBAKS’ we have now is enough to fill a teaspoon. And they must pour in like buckets.”
How many drones does Ukraine produce?
“We have increased the production of drones a hundred times, maybe even 150 times, and in some cases – even more,” Giorgi Tshakaya, adviser to the minister on digitalization and one of the architects of the “Army of Drones” project, told DV on which Ukrainian and foreign drones are bought for the Ukrainian army.
At the same time, Tshakaya admits: “They will never be enough. The drones are never enough because there is a need for a lot.” According to him, at the beginning of the war there were seven drone manufacturers in the country, and a year and a half later there were already 150. These are mostly private companies.
Aviation expert Valery Romanenko defines Ukraine’s progress in the production of drones over the last year and a half as a real leap: “We started the war only with the Turkish “Bayraktar”. And since the summer of 2023, 28 models of drones have been officially put into service, of which nine are kamikaze drones”. But in his opinion, this is not enough.
The Ukrainian analogue of “Shaheed”
Romanenko believes that, having access to Western components, Ukraine was able to copy the Shahed 136 drones produced by Iran, and now attacks Russia with them under the name Geran-2. They consist for the most part of Western components. “The aerodynamics of this drone could easily be improved and made the same or even with better parameters,” the expert points out.
On the topic of “Shaheed”, however, the statements are extremely cautious – the prevailing assumptions are that this type of drone is being mass-produced in Ukraine, as well as some “more powerful models”. The details and names of these developments are not disclosed.
Unification or diversity?
Valery Romanenko suggests that the amount of strike drones produced in Ukraine could increase if the various companies working in this field unite and use similar components. “For now, we’re not able to pick one or two drones and start mass-producing them – so we can’t produce as large quantities as the Russians are releasing.”
The representative of “Army of drones” Giorgi Tshakaya points out that the authorities will continue to adhere to the philosophy of the open market and free competition – because the more manufacturers there are, the more intensive the research and development of new products. “We cannot defeat Russia in a traditional way – we have to be more innovative, and innovation is born from competition,” says Tshikaya.
He admits that Russia has more opportunities to produce reconnaissance drones, and specifically Orlanov, because it has been doing this for ten years. But the Ukrainians still have a chance to catch up with the opponent, Tshikaya is convinced.
What are the problems with the production of Ukrainian drones?
The head of the company “Skaeton” Andrey Fialkovski says that his enterprise independently produces most of the elements for the drones – starting from the resins from which the body is formed, and ending with the programming equipment. “For now, we buy American communication systems, engines, various sensors. But starting next year, we will switch to our Ukrainian sensors.”
He notes that importing items from abroad is difficult. The production of most components takes a long time, so they must be ordered a year in advance, and the state concludes contracts for implementation with terms of 3-4 months. Fialkovski is of the opinion that Ukraine lacks strategic thinking regarding the production of drones.
Another problem mentioned by manufacturers is the lack of qualified personnel. Many specialist engineers have gone abroad, joined the army, or are engaged in other, smaller projects in the development of drones, of which there are dozens, if not hundreds, in Ukraine.
See also this video on DV:
Ukraine: With cheap drones against Russian tanks
You can read this material in the original on the Russian website of DV