Crowdfunding Weaponized Drones In Ukraine
from the not-a-toy dept
Although it rarely makes it into the Western media these days, the bloody conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to smoulder along a vague and shifting front. The lack of direct support from the West means that the Ukrainians have had to come up with other approaches to counter Russia’s massive superiority in both technology and resources. According to a fascinating article in the Guardian, one way they are doing this is by using lost-cost drones, paid for by crowdfunding. One of Ukraine?s top IT outsourcing companies, Eleks, has been helping with the technical side:
Eleks, which is a private company based in both Ukraine and Nevada, pays healthy salaries. It allows staff to work on software and drone hardware projects that receive no government support or funding during work hours. They are doing this because, as their project manager, Ivan Dmytrasevych, told us, “We know we have to invest in the defence of our country. If our research works, and we can show the people that it works, then we will turn to crowdfunding to realise it.”
Eleks is working on a number of drone projects. One is to help Ukrainian drones return to base automatically if signals are jammed by the Russians:
Ivan says that the Russian forces have highly advanced systems to jam and intercept Ukrainian drones, which can easily send them off course and into enemy hands. “They have $7m systems to jam drones that cost thousands of dollars,? he explains. “We just can?t match their resources.” However, if they can slow down these types of losses, they can build up a useful force.
Another is to use drones to map Russian forces on the ground to provide coordinates for shelling:
“Just imagine that you take a map of some territory from Google Maps, and then your drone flies over the territory to take a picture. Artillery teams need exact coordinates from enemy positions shown on those images. Our software will help them get it instantly.”
That’s an indication that these crowdfunded drones are not just digital toys for the combatants, but designed to cause serious casualties in the real world. Indeed, they already have — on the Ukrainian side, during attempts to construct drones that could drop bombs on the Russians. According to the Guardian report, some of the engineers were killed as they worked on this project:
Firstly, these were essentially homemade and potentially faulty bombs. Secondly, the fact that they were launching drones multiple times from the same position quickly exposed their location. From what I’d been told, a mortar or sniper attack was guaranteed at this point.
Those risks are unlikely to dissuade engineers from using these up-to-the-minute means to counter the huge disparity between the opposing forces, since the Ukrainians don’t really have many other options.