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WSJ: Small US-made drones perform poorly in Ukraine

by Martin Fornusek April 10, 2024 10:36 AM 2 min read
Illustrative purposes only: A Skydio quadcopter drone of the U.S. military hovers over the venue of the 15th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base on September 19, 2023, in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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Small drones made by U.S. startups have performed poorly on Ukrainian battlefields, being regarded as expensive and glitchy by their users, the Wall Street Journal reported on April 10.

Unmanned systems have become a key capability for both sides of the Russia-Ukraine war, as Kyiv is ramping up domestic production and imports of drones.

The U.S. has supplied Ukraine with a number of smaller American-made drones, but they have failed to make a meaningful impact, the Journal wrote.

Drone company executives, Ukrainian officials, and former U.S. defense officials told the outlet that these unmanned aircraft are often expensive, glitchy, and difficult to repair.

They are also reportedly susceptible to Russian electronic warfare systems, which makes them fly off course and get lost.

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"The general reputation for every class of U.S. drone in Ukraine is that they don't work as well as other systems," said Adam Bry, the CEO of the Skydio company that supplied Ukraine with hundreds of its own drones.

Kyiv has been increasingly turning to cheaper Chinese drones, such as off-the-shelf hardware from SZ DJI Technology. Ukrainian companies are relying on Chinese components for domestic drone production, according to the Journal.

China is also a crucial source of drones for Russia. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov admitted last October that the majority of drones that Russia currently has come from Chinese imports.

U.S.-made drones had at least some successes, for example, in investigations of Russian war crimes, search and rescue operations, or scouting, the Wall Street Journal wrote.

President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree in February creating a separate branch of Ukraine's Armed Forces dedicated to drones.

Strategic Industries Deputy Minister Hanna Hvozdiar said that Ukraine has the capacity to produce 150,000 drones every month and may be able to produce 2 million drones by the end of the year.

Deadly drone arms race intensifies as Ukraine, Russia embrace the future of war
At this stage of a war that could last years more, both Ukraine and Russia are getting serious with their drone game: ramping up production while always looking to come up with new innovations.
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