WAR IN UKRAINEDrones Employed in the Ukraine War

By Amos Chapple

Published 17 November 2022

Unmanned systems have revolutionized modern warfare – and pilotless aircraft have had a significant impact in the war in Ukraine.

Unmanned systems have revolutionized modern warfare – and pilotless aircraft have had a significant impact in the war in Ukraine. Here are some of the drones known to be in use above the battlefields of Ukraine.

Aerorozvidka R18
The Ukrainian-made R18 octocopter is specifically designed for bomblet drops. The drone has been stripped of everything but the bare essential components in order to maximize its payload capacity of around 5 kilograms. Even landing legs have been deleted, meaning it requires a special platform to take off and a human “catcher” to land.

The R18 can fly without lights in the dark for total visual stealth, while using thermal-imaging cameras to spot enemy troops and vehicles. Videos captured by the octocopter show Russian tanks being wiped out by cheap, armor-piercing grenades fitted with 3D-printed tail fins.

Eight-propeller octocopters such as the R18 offer more reliability than the more common quadcopters. Even if one motor fails or gets shot away, an octocopter can continue flying.

Twenty crews operating the R18 drones are reportedly on the front lines of the war in Ukraine.

This nonlethal drone, which Russia dubs a “hardware-raising system,” is designed to hover in place and cannot roam beyond the length of the electrical cable attached to a command station on the ground that feeds the drone power. That tether limits the altitude of the coffee-table-sized quadcopter to around 70 meters, but allows it to stay aloft for a claimed period of three days before it must land for maintenance checks.

The Kvazimachta carries a camera and telecommunications hardware that allow it to serve as a kind of hovering “mast” that can be rapidly relocated and is less vulnerable to artillery attacks than a fixed telecoms tower.

DJI Mavic series
Chinese drone manufacturer DJI designs its drones mostly for filmmakers and photographers, but both sides in the Ukraine conflict use DJI copters for reconnaissance, artillery correction, and for dropping small antipersonnel grenades.

The latest Mavic (pictured) is fitted with a low-quality telephoto lens, which allows for surveillance of targets from beyond earshot, and a more crisp wide-angle lens. The quadcopter is powerful enough to carry and drop single grenades fitted with impact fuses.