Ukraine's Homegrown Drone Unit Working Magic to Fight the Russians

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Welcome to war in the 21st century.

A group of private citizens and Ukrainian special forces is credited with stopping a 40-mile-long Russian armored convoy that was headed for the capital city of Kyiv in the first weeks of the war.


The Aerorozvidka is a group of about 30 volunteer IT specialists and hobbyists who designed their own machines and has evolved into an essential element in Ukraine’s resistance. Using night-vision goggles, thermal imaging cameras, remotely detonated mines, and drones capable of dropping small bombs, the small force bothered and bewildered the Russian army, stopping it in its tracks.

Their incredible story will need a big-budget, Hollywood movie to be told.


The unit’s commander, Lt Col Yaroslav Honchar, gave an account of the ambush near the town of Ivankiv that helped stop the vast, lumbering Russian offensive in its tracks. He said the Ukrainian fighters on quad bikes were able to approach the advancing Russian column at night by riding through the forest on either side of the road leading south towards Kyiv from the direction of Chernobyl.

The Ukrainian soldiers were equipped with night vision goggles, sniper rifles, remotely detonated mines, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras and others capable of dropping small 1.5kg bombs.

“This one little unit in the night destroyed two or three vehicles at the head of this convoy, and after that it was stuck. They stayed there two more nights, and [destroyed] many vehicles,” Honchar said.

Certainly, there are some elements of this story that are exaggerated. The Russians can’t all be blind, deaf, and stupid. But one aspect of the story is definitely true: the unit is forced to crowdfund and scrounge for supplies.


However, while Ukraine’s western backers have supplied thousands of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and other military equipment, Aerorozvidka has been forced to resort to crowdfunding and a network of personal contacts in order to keep going, by getting hold of components such as advanced modems and thermal imaging cameras, in the face of export controls that prohibit them being sent to Ukraine.

Not all the details of what’s been reported can be verified, but something halted the Russian advance on the outskirts of Kyiv and it didn’t appear to be the Ukrainian armed forces.

Not all the details of these claims could be independently verified, but US defence officials have said that Ukrainian attacks contributed to the halting of the armoured column around Ivankiv. The huge amount of aerial combat footage published by the Ukrainians underlines the importance of drones to their resistance.

This is a remarkable story of resistance by ordinary people, aided by modern technology and social networks. If only half of what’s been reported is true, these civilians are making a real difference in the war.



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