DroneUA Cofounder: Ukraine Will Become A Mecca Of Drones Production Soon

DroneUA Cofounder: Ukraine Will Become A Mecca Of Drones Production Soon

Valeriy Yakovenko on how many and which drones the Armed Forces currently need, and how the government and Ukrainians can help our drone developers

DroneUA Cofounder: Ukraine Will Become A Mecca Of Drones Production Soon

During the wartime dozens of Ukrainian entrepreneurs joined the producing, tuning and repairing of drones. How does this industry take off? How many attack and reconnaissance drones are already made by Ukrainian companies? Is it possible to set up production of electronics for drones by yourself? How exactly do agricultural drones help our military? DroneUA co-founder Valeriy Yakovenko told Mind about this and much more. The main question of the interview is what can be written about, so as not to cause harm. Thus, without details.

- Did active development of domestic drones start back in 2014?

- Yes, 2014 was the beginning of the development of the market of drones and equipment used in the field of security. About 100 enterprises were created, about ten remain commercially successful: Ukrspecsystems, ITEC... Leleka, Mara and others drones are great stories of Ukrainian manufacturers, they have become an excellent example of businesses that create highly intelligent products.

Leleka-100 UAV
Picture: wikipedia.org

Subsequently, some remained to work in the military sphere, and some switched to the production of civilian drones. So did DroneUA. We developed our own drones, put them on the market, and exported them. We found several important niches in the industrial use of drones.

And now we are once again seeing how the number of Ukrainian enterprises setting up the production of drones or working in the field of defense robotics is increasing exponentially.

PD-2 UAV by Ukrspecsystems
Picture: wing.com.ua

- How many attack and reconnaissance UAVs can these companies currently produce and deliver to the Armed Forces in a month?

- Given the annual growth, the number of attack and reconnaissance drones is now calculated in the hundreds per month, if not in the thousands. At present, the potential and human resources make it possible to produce such equipment systematically and perhaps more than anywhere in the world. Of course, provided that there are built-up logistics supplies.

- And civilian UAVs?

- About 300 drones are delivered to our military each week, which are usually brought in by volunteers from other countries. Most of them are small civilian drones for photo and video. Sometimes professional equipment is also included.

Civilian drones are used not only for aerial reconnaissance – for aiming and adjusting fire, but also for documenting war crimes, searching for marks set by saboteurs, conducting search and rescue operations, etc. Plus, any drone model can be converted to an auto-dropping function (in Ukraine, today there are enough technical personnel who can complete the drone).

The difference between a military drone and a civilian drone is in the presence of a signal encryption channel, operating with closed Wi-Fi networks, additional navigation systems in emergency situations and other services that guarantee confidentiality.

- Do these amounts satisfy the demand of the Armed Forces?

– About 15–20% of the demand of the General Staff and Ministry of Defense. The Armed Forces need many more drones: such equipment is expendable, it crashes, breaks, disappears due to the effect of EW (electronic warfare). And that's the problem.

Another problem is that the equipment is not unified. The delivery can come with 20 different models of drones. You have to train people to work with each model, have different support programs, and different engineers to repair this equipment. If it's a "mishmash" – there are possible difficulties even during the exchange of information between two operators, with changing the drones, replacing personnel at positions. Therefore, in addition to increasing the number of drones for the frontline, it is important to work on the unification or standardization of unmanned equipment.

- What types of UAVs are currently most in demand in the Armed Forces?

- At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, drones with an operational radius of 1 to 4 km were very actively used. This was enough to, for example, carry out reconnaissance, find enemy groups, columns, and control artillery in the Kyiv Oblast or near Kharkiv.

Now the appetite is growing. We received 155-caliber artillery, and we need equipment capable of operating at a distance of 7-10 km. Although it is not very safe. Therefore, it is better – 15-20 km. Also, now there is a need to carry out reconnaissance for dozens of kilometers – up to 50 km. For this purpose, there is equipment that has already been working in the Armed Forces. There are also drones that can fly for hundreds of kilometers, but we shouldn’t talk about them.

- How could the state help increase the production of such drones?

- The state should provide the “green line”: ways for quick import and logistics of business processes. It is necessary to establish the possibility of purchasing and supplying the country with all components. It is still difficult. The components that arrive in Ukraine transit through neighboring countries, they need to be additionally checked by customs, brought to the attention of structures that check purchases for the end consumer – the state. Such checks are really necessary. But it is important to speed up the process of obtaining the end user certificate.

Credits and additional financial assistance are also needed so that the companies can work not only with their own and borrowed funds. The state has this opportunity and it should provide financial aid to the manufacturers who create new types of equipment for the protection of our country.

An easy and operational mechanism for moving IT professionals between units of the Armed Forces is also needed. Until now, we sometimes face situations when it is practically impossible to transfer mobilized specialists to units that are engaged in the development of new types of equipment. The state should speed up this process.

- Does Ukraine still import electronics for UAVs?

- Now equipment and electronics are imported. This is not an easy process: you have to work with various companies in different countries. It is difficult, but the volunteers handle this. In general, volunteers now import faster than companies that specialize in this business and worked in this domain before the war. It is the volunteers who create the conditions for the real use of drones, find anything, anywhere throughout Europe, and "vacuum" all the markets that are nearby.

- Is it possible to set up local Ukrainian electronics production?

- Ukraine will become the Mecca of drone production. The most innovative equipment will be created here and here will be a center for the development of the most advanced technologies. Also the chips and electronics for drones will be produced here.

It is going to happen in a year or two. Maybe during the war, maybe after the victory. This requires time and people. We have people – the most brilliant, the most innovative, the smartest. There are IT specialists who think outside the box and find opportunities where others don’t see them. And this is a challenge for the IT sphere, which works for the defense industry.

Ukraine will become a benchmark for production opportunities. It is here that concerns, clusters, associations will be created, which will be used to invent the most interesting things. International companies working in the field of security will open R&D here. We will see the biggest market players: Lockheed Martin, Boeing and others.

They will be here. And this is not a joke. Because now the largest number of people who understand robotics and drones are concentrated in Ukraine. In the future, this – developed in Ukraine – equipment will be supplied all over the world.

Picture: facebook/Valeriy Iakovenko

- Hope it will be as you say. Can you also tell us what your company is currently doing for the Armed Forces?

- Since the first day of the war, the DroneUA team has been helping the units of military and enforcement structures of Ukraine. We provide search, delivery of drones and other special equipment. As of June 20, more than UAH 40 million worth of equipment was shipped. We work directly through contacts and channels inside the Armed Forces and other specialized structures. We also supply drones for volunteer and charity programs, which are implemented jointly with European partner companies.

Our employees are connected to aerial reconnaissance operations on the front lines as UAVs operators. They help to search for enemy equipment and detect hidden threats. DroneUA administers a national network of stations for the detection of enemy drones, subversive reconnaissance groups of the Russian army.

Systematically and 24/7 we provide consultations to the military, police, and territorial defense. DroneUA specialists have developed a number of manuals used by special services. At the same time we carry out repair and maintenance of drones.

At the initiative of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and the Ministry of Digital Transformation, DroneUA engages agricultural drones and active farmers from all over Ukraine to search for abandoned enemy military equipment in the fields. This is necessary for demining, transferring equipment for the account of the Armed Forces, and for starting field work by farmers.

Picture: facebook/Valeriy Iakovenko

Another area of ​​work is providing social divisions and refugee aid points with portable charging stations. Ukrainian MPs supported and continue to help implement this initiative. About 100 stations, which are used for no-break powering medical equipment, portable charging of walkie-talkies, laptops, telephones, and radio transmitters, have already been shipped. A few dozen more portable power stations have been handed over to the Red Cross (the normal one, not the one with the orcs – yes, there are two of them).

In the area of energy security, we work with Starlink satellite communication stations. Already on March 3, we received a request for cooperation from SpaceX, and currently several hundred Starlink terminals operating with limited access to electricity are equipped with DroneUA portable power plants.

The team performs a huge amount of related work: from finding partners, investors, equipment to its delivery to the country and handing it over to the defenders. This work is carried out almost non-stop.

- How and what could Ukrainians help you with?

- If you know someone who can hand over a drone or become an investor or benefactor, please contact us. The process of finding investors for the purchase of drones with thermal imaging in Europe has been launched. There is not so much of this equipment left in Europe. Therefore, it is extremely important that those drones that can still be purchased and delivered fall into the hands of those who need them "for yesterday".

Thanks to the already developed process, we know almost everyone who received a drone from us by name. And these are hundreds of requests with which they were able to help.

- How to transfer a drone to Ukraine?

- On the initiative of the Czech company HRDLIČKA, which started working on the Ukrainian market last year, an initiative for collecting drones in Europe was organized – COLLECTION OF DRONES FOR UKRAINE. The company turned to DroneUA, as the market leader of unmanned technologies in Ukraine, with a request for partnership in the delivery of drones and their transfer to Ukrainian defenders.

In fact, the HRDLIČKA team has formed a hub where people from Europe can donate drones or transfer funds to a charity account. Next, we send them a list of equipment for which we have previously received direct inquiries.

Equipment is purchased abroad, transferred directly by partner companies and delivered simply to our warehouse.

HRDLIČKA and the Geodata Ukraine team partnered with the Custom Services of Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Slovakia so that drones could be transferred quickly at the border. In fact, the equipment was collected in the evening – in the morning it has already crossed the border and is on its way to Kyiv. After the Czech Republic such a hub started working in Poland.

Picture: facebook/Valeriy Iakovenko

– How are drones distributed between structures?

- Depending on the situation. We look where drones are more needed – usually these are hot spots. After that we cover the needs of "quiet" regions. However, we don’t have enough drones even to cover the requests from areas where military operations are very active.

This project uses cookies from Mind to deliver its services and to analyze traffic.Learn moreOK, Got it