The role of drones in the Russian-Ukrainian war cannot overstate. Depending on these drones' types and modifications, the drones perform different functions during battlefield missions. Civilian "mavics," recently used to film luxurious weddings in Kyiv or scenic flights over the Sanzhiyka slopes, are showing Ukrainian soldier locations, ammunition depots, and movement routes of russians. That drones turn into a weapon in the skillful hands of the Ukrainian Armed Forces — the angry drones.
Molfar publishes the types of drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and the media mentions their work. Molfar analytics concentrated on specific types of FPV kamikaze drones in this article. Also, we used interfaces from the control systems of these drones for calculations.
What UAVs do the Ukrainian Armed Forces have?
We want to note that Molfar analysts collected this information from open data, so we don’t share information that could endanger Ukraine's Armed Forces. We don’t estimate the number of launched drones, and we used only public mentions of UAV operations that resulted in strikes at the enemy between January and June 2023. Information that cannot be published during the war.
Leleka — is a Ukrainian-made drone. It has been in service since 2021. Its speed reaches 120 km/h, and the flight lasts up to 2.5 hours.
In March, aerial surveillance of the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade discovered a battery of Russian 220-mm rocket launchers deployed and ready to fire near the village of Novonikanorivka in Luhansk Oblast. Leleka pointed the artillery of the 40th separate artillery brigade at the enemy. And in this case, Leleka recorded the destruction of Russian military equipment by a RAM II kamikaze UAV.
A Ukrainian reconnaissance drone. It is used for surveillance and fire control. The first flight was in 2022. The maximum speed is 150 km/h, and the combat radius is 60 km. It can fly for up to 4 hours.
The first footage of the Ukrainian UAV was shown in January 2023, showing the drone at work in the Donetsk sector.
This typical, once-civilian quadcopter is the most popular model because of its versatility. Its flight time is 46 minutes, and its maximum altitude is 6 km. It is equipped with high-quality optics, which helps our Armed Forces to see the occupiers from above. For example, in March, the military of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade tracked down an occupation stronghold using the Mavic. And in February, the 93rd Brigade recorded and adjusted fire on the occupiers in the Bakhmut direction using this drone.
The Mavic-3 is versatile because it can be equipped with a thermal imager or a system for dropping explosives in addition to reconnaissance work. Between January and June 2023, there were 6 mentions of Mavic-3 as a reconnaissance drone.
Reconnaissance copter with thermal imager
Continuing the theme of the Mavic's versatility, this drone also performs surveillance at night, equipped with a thermal imager. In this video from February, in Bakhmut, the Mavic-3T points at the Russian position at night and also records the moment of the explosion of the occupiers' equipment.
Drones for dropping
Civilian copters, such as the Mavic-3, are equipped with systems for dropping explosives, which drop explosives to the occupiers in trenches or on equipment.
Mavic-3 / Mavic-3T
In March, the 54th Brigade destroyed several Russians using a Mavic-3T (with a thermo-vision camera).
These are drones that have a built-in weapon system. They can barge in the air, over a target, for a long time and then quickly attack the target at the operator's command. These drones can also perform specific combat missions provided for by the algorithm.
An American kamikaze drone with a maximum speed of 160 km/h. It flies for 50 minutes at a distance of 600 meters. The Armed Forces of Ukraine first used it during the Russian-Ukrainian war in May 2022. For example, in early June of this year, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) telegram channel published a video in which SSU military counterintelligence officers destroyed an enemy BUK-M1 anti-aircraft missile system and three TOR-2Ms.
And this video was published in January of this year. It shows how three kamikaze drones have killed the occupiers in trenches in Bakhmut.
February 2023. The operators of the Seneca Special Forces of the 93rd Brigade "Kholodnyi Yar" destroy the occupiers with a direct hit from kamikaze drones.
There needs to be more information on the start of the collection to purchase these drones. The United States promises to provide Ukraine with the newest Switchblade 300 Block 20 kamikaze drones.
The analysis noted that Switchblade was mentioned more often from January to March of this year, according to published (albeit few) media references. Recently, there has not been any mention of this drone in the media or on tg-channels. This trend may indicate that these UAVs:
a) are no longer being supplied;
b) they have proved to be ineffective during the combat missions
c) or the videos are not published for security reasons.
A person involved in the factory conversion of the drones and asked for anonymity for security reasons is inclined to option "b".
Ukrainian-made drones. The drones fly at an air speed of 50-75 km/h, about 400 meters, and drop weapons weighing up to 20 kg. These are actually regular quadcopters made of simple parts that specialists equip with explosives, thus turning them into kamikaze drones. These FPV drones were created in cooperation with the Army of Drones.
For example, in January this year, Pegas operators used this drone to destroy a Russian tank and an armored personnel carrier. And in April, operators of the "Ochy Vidplaty" (Eyes of Retribution) unit of the 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade destroyed a Russian dugout.
The number of references to effectively using this drone's capabilities is growing each month. So, in January of this year, there were only 2 unique mentions of Pegas, and in April–37. In June, there were 33 mentions. And of all the mentions we analyzed, this drone appears most often. In total, there were 110 mentions of the Pegas drone from January to June of this year.
The volunteer headquarters "Ukrainian Team" probably organized fundraising for Pegas drones. They collected UAH 3,200,000 for 100 drones. In May, Serhiy Prytula raised UAH 20,000,000. How many drones were purchased is unknown. We suppose he fundraised for Pegas as he was holding a Pegas UAV in one hand in the photo in the post. And on June 22, Prytula announced a fundraiser for FPV drones (probably including Pegas). The total amount of fee is UAH 101,600,000.
The News.GRP also held a fundraiser for Pegas drones in May - UAH 4,100,000 = 200 drones.
FPV "Goida" (and related craft names "Bavovna," "Nort Varta")
The followers of Ukrainian blogger Serhiy Sternenko, who was raising money for these drones, picked up the name of these drones. FPV (First Person View) — the function of transmitting video in real-time using a camera installed in the front of the UAV).
We have intentionally put Pegas and Goida next to each other in the list of kamikaze drones because, according to Sternenko's post, Goida is a crafted, alternative name for the Pegas UAV.
According to Molfar calculations, the most frequent mentions of this kamikaze drone in the media were from January to April. And in the two most recent months, May and June, there was nothing in the media about the drone's operations. The most prominent media references to this drone were in February when a video was published showing Goida (or another name, Bavovna) blowing up a Russian soldier when he tried to hack the drone with a stick.
In the same month, a Goida drone attacked a Russian off-road vehicle, killing several Russian soldiers. It was the work of the K-2 battalion of the 54th Separate Mechanized Brigade.
Although these are the same drones, we decided to describe them separately because we need to count media references to Goida individually since social activist and blogger Serhiy Sternenko (who uses the craft name Pegas in his community on Telegram-channel) directly influences the spread of information about this drone through numerous posts and fundraisers for these UAVs. Molfar noted the 18 unique public mentions of the Goida drones from the beginning of this year. All of them — between January and April.
Since the start of the year, we have counted 6 posts about FPV drone donations (probably from Goida) organized by Serhiy Sternenko (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). These campaigns raised well over 56 million UAH and purchased beyond 3 thousand drones.
This video from February shows a Ukrainian Foxeer kamikaze drone striking a Russian Grenadier air defense system in Shebekino, Belgorod region, Russia.
There are no reports of a fee for the Foxeer drone.
It is an FPV drone (i.e., First Person View — the function of transmitting video in real time using a camera installed in the front of the UAV). The media do not publicly publicize its country of manufacture and its features.
This June video showed the moment of the destruction of a Russian picket line. And there is also a mention from March that fighters of the Stugna unit destroyed the Russian Murom-M visual surveillance complex on the territory of the then-entire Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant.
This post describes how the SSU destroyed the Russian Murom-M station in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. "Murom-M" was monitoring the movement of the Ukrainian military around the clock. The Ukrainian military also neutralized 6 armored vehicles: four enemy BMP-2s, two armored personnel carriers with 16 crew members and a mortar crew.
During the analysis period, we recorded that in January there was only 1 public mention of the Falcon Avanger UAV, and in June there were 4.
There are no reports of a fundraising campaign for the Falcon Avanger drone.
A Ukrainian-made strike drone based on the Leleka reconnaissance UAV described above. The battle radius is up to 30 km, and the flight range is up to 60 km. A flight can last up to 1 hour. This video, posted by Serhiy Prytula, shows how the Security Service of Ukraine’s Centralized Security Center "A" uses a RAM II UAV to target an enemy M-2 TOR.
There was only 1 unique public mention of this drone between January and June.
Information on the fundraising for the RAM II drone was not found.
What FPV drones were most often mentioned in the media?
The analysis includes those FPV drone models mentioned from January to June 2023. These are only some of the drones that Ukrainian defenders have in their arsenal.
Of course, the number of references in the media to the practice of kamikaze drones is not proportional to their effectiveness on the battlefield. Only the military, who use them on the battlefield and see the results, can say for sure about the quality of the weapon. Molfar analyzed the number of notable mentions of kamikaze drone training and public meetings announced for them (if any). For example, the Switchblade had numerous mentions at the beginning of the year, but in April and May, there were none as the RAM II drone.
A leader in the top of media mentions of working out is Pegas, and there is also information about organized fees for their purchase. There is also information about fees for the so-called Goida, but there have been no reports of this drone being tested in the recent two months. While the Falcon Avenger, with no announcement of the fees, and no detailed information about the features, shows an endless number of mentions of its work.
However, the overall qualitative effectiveness of drones is improving, compensating for the fact that some drones are more often mentioned in the media (as we can see, the Pegas drone is now in the lead). It could also mean that drone operators and intelligence are getting increasingly powerful every month.
What is the situation with drones in Russia?
Of course, the occupiers also have drones, which they use both on the battlefield and to destroy critical infrastructure, and kill civilians. For example, the Orion is a Russian drone that performs intelligence functions and can launch a bomb or missile strike at 5-7 km altitudes.
The Russians redesigned the Russian Forpost-R strike drone under the license of the Israeli Searcher II. The Russian Forpost-R can operate at distances of over 200 km, stay in the air for about 10 hours, and reach speeds of up to 180 km per hour.
Among reconnaissance UAVs, Russia uses the Orlan-10, which has a range of up to 120 km from a ground control station. It can stay in the air for up to 18 hours, and its flight speed reaches 90-150 km per hour.
Talk of kamikaze drones, particularly Russian ones, began to grow more active after Russia launched "Shaheds" – Iranian-made drones now in service with the occupiers — throughout Ukraine last October. Iran regularly supplies these kamikazes to Russia; we have had quantitative statistics.
And in fact, thousands of other types of UAVs are imported to Russia every month. Iran and China are Russia's "business partners" in this. We have this information from an insider.
Besides, you've probably heard about the scandal involving iFlight Technology Company Limited. It is a Chinese manufacturer of FPV drones and non-military components. It is currently 100% owned by drone producer DJI. Last April, the company announced (1, 2) that it was temporarily suspending the supplies of drones to Ukraine and Russia. The following day, Ukrainian activist Serhiy Sternenko commented on the company's statement that this would make some FPV drones for the Ukrainian armed forces much more challenging to purchase. In contrast, the company would send drones directly to Russia.
And the Wall Street Journal's investigation said that as of February 2023, iFlight Technology Company Limited's drones have continued to be secretly shipped to the Russian armed forces via contacts with collaborators in China, the Middle East, and Europe.
According to our information, Russia has already multiplied the supply of attack drones from China.
Media mentions of drones in the hands of the Armed Forces of Ukraine do not demonstrate the effectiveness of UAVs. This article publicly mentions the FPV drones. No matter how many mentions there are in social media or on websites, it is worth keeping in mind that drones are critical tools today, but unfortunately, they can quickly run out of resources. Remember to donate and support our defenders. The enemy's number of attack drones is growing every month.
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