The Ukrainian air force has lost at least 15 fixed-wing aircraft in seven weeks of hard battle since Russia escalated its assault in Ukraine, accounting for more than a tenth of its pre-war inventory. Armed drones are increasingly replacing the diminishing manned force.
Around three dozen Turkish-made TB-2 killer drones are operated by the Ukrainian air force and navy. Commercial-style drones, on the other hand, have entered the fray. Aerorozvidka, a volunteer drone team, has started dropping small explosives from their commercially available helicopter drones.
If this strategy seems familiar, it’s because it was adopted by the extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria eight years ago. According to one Iraqi official, ISIS drones carrying tiny explosives were “the primary difficulty” for coalition troops fighting to recapture Mosul.
ISIS’ tactics were swiftly emulated by drug cartels. Ukraine’s own off-the-shelf drones are now on their way to take out the Russians. It’s not difficult to find video footage of Aerorozvidka’s bombing method. Some of the footage is posted by the drone squad itself.
The films all have the same elements: a stable drone dropping a small munition vertically, generating a blast that, while not catastrophic, appears to be enough to harm an armoured vehicle and wound or kill anyone standing nearby.
Vertical bombing from a hovering platform likely suggests the drone in question is a quadcopter or octocopter, both of which are readily available on the internet. An octocopter can weigh up to ten pounds and lift up to fifteen pounds. You could put a camera in and still be able to lift numerous tiny bombs.
A 10-pound drone delivering three-pound bombs clearly poses less of a threat to Russian forces than a 1,400-pound TB-2 firing 14-pound Smart Micro Munition missiles from hundreds of kilometres away.
For one thing, an octocopter must get near to its target before dropping its bomb. Analysts have confirmed that a Ukrainian octocopter was shot down, but it’s certain that Aerorozvidka has lost many more drones.
Vertical bombing from a hovering platform strongly suggests that the drone in question is a quadcopter or octocopter, which may be purchased online. An octocopter may weigh ten pounds and lift fifteen. You could put a camera in and still lift many tiny explosives.
A 10-pound drone delivering three-pound bombs clearly poses less of a threat to Russian forces than a 1,400-pound TB-2 firing 14-pound Smart Micro Munition missiles from a distance.
For starters, an octocopter must approach in order to drop its bomb. Analysts have confirmed that a Ukrainian octocopter was shot down, but it appears like Aerorozvidka has lost many more drones.
Furthermore, because to its satellite control technology, a TB-2 may travel hundreds of miles from its operators. Under ideal conditions, an octocopter with a line-of-sight radio link might travel 75 miles. For business drone operators, though, being closer is preferable.
This puts drone pilots at risk of enemy fire. Civilian drone operators, according to Oleh Sobchenko, a Ukrainian military drone operator, “expose themselves to unnecessary danger by trying to go as close to enemy positions as possible.”
Although an octocopter won’t be able to replace a TB-2, it can be used to supplement the larger drone at a considerably lower cost. Kyiv may buy an octocopter for $10,000 instead of millions of dollars for a TB-2. Volunteers in Ukraine also build their own drones.
Aerorozvidka is at least partially sponsored through crowdsourcing. When your drones are inexpensive, this is achievable. When they cost millions of dollars each, not so much. It’s a major deal to lose a TB-2, and the Russians have shot down at least three so far. Losing an octocopter, on the other hand, is a pain.
ISIS established factories in Iraq and Syria five years ago to modify mortar bombs for use on its off-the-shelf drones. For their part, the cartels have loaded “potato bombs”—fist-size homemade explosives—on drones for assaults on each rivals and police.