French News broadcaster BFM TV made the following documentary about how drones are drastically altering warfare, as evidenced by the Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion. These remotely operated devices range from million-euro military models to makeshift consumer versions and homegrown prototypes. They're far more than eyes in the sky – they've become instrumental in the art of conflict, shaping the dynamics of modern battles.
Darkmouth, a ghost town in northern Donbas, witnessed this new wave of warfare. The city's former inhabitants fled the scene as Ukrainian units employed drones in their longest and bloodiest battle against Russian forces. A specially trained crew positioned close to the front lines watched real-time drone footage to locate enemy positions.
Drones play a crucial role, offering commanders a bird's eye view of the battlefield. “From anywhere on Earth,” they relayed, “we can command the battle, spotting enemy advances and directing our forces accordingly.” The immediacy of Drone Technology has transformed war tactics, making them indispensable in modern conflict.
Nonetheless, drones aren't invincible. In an underground command center, a unit's drone was shot down, and quickly replaced by another one, demonstrating the vulnerability but also the readiness of these machines. Their operators, Chip and Drugs, performed high-risk tasks, often under enemy fire. The team uses a DJI Mavic 3, a civilian drone, to gather crucial battlefield information. These devices, easily purchasable and straightforward to use, can be manipulated into effective war instruments.
Another tool aiding these drone operators is the Starlink antenna, developed by billionaire Elon Musk. This technology enables the team to adjust their shots in real-time, facilitating precision attacks. Despite their critical role and proximity to the front line, Chip and Drugs maintain a stoic calm, focused on their mission.
The drone operators gather crucial information, working with artillery to destroy identified enemy positions. The commander noted, “With a simple civilian drone, we can guide and adjust the artillery shots. In danger, it's really a good solution.”
Following the Russian invasion, Ukraine's use of drones escalated, with a Turkish military drone, TB2, even becoming an emblem of resistance. This drone, armed with anti-tank rockets and laser-guided missiles, played a pivotal role in the defense of Kiev. Its price tag? A whopping 5 million dollars.
Contrarily, the Russian forces' use of drones has been less effective, with the Iranian kamikaze drone Chat 136 causing more fear than damage. The drone's ineffectiveness lies in its noise and lack of precision.
Drones first became prominent in the late 90s and gradually replaced helicopters and fighter jets in various missions. But their effectiveness has extended beyond state control. Individuals with basic knowledge and nefarious intent can militarize these devices for their own purposes.
For Ukraine, drone use was a response to a desperate need. As the Donbass war broke out in 2014, the Ukrainian army found itself at a disadvantage. The answer came from tech geeks and veterans who took matters into their own hands, creating made-in-Ukraine drones. One example is ‘The Punisher,' a homemade drone capable of dropping up to 3 kg of explosives.
Despite manufacturers' protests against the militarization of civilian drones, the devices continue to play a crucial role in combat zones. The Chinese DJI Company, a major drone manufacturer, suspended sales in both Ukraine and Russia in April 2022 and attempted to block its products remotely. However, both sides found ways to circumvent these restrictions.
With drones becoming a central weapon, training pilots is now a top priority. Since the war's start, numerous training courses have sprung up across Ukraine, churning out thousands of skilled drone operators.
As the world watches this drone war unfold, it is clear that drones are becoming an indispensable tool in modern warfare. Their versatility, adaptability, and affordability significantly transform the conflict landscape. This transition into drone warfare underscores the importance of technological advancements in shaping future wars. It's a stark reminder that war tactics are not stagnant; they evolve with time and technology.
Moreover, drones are leveling the playing field, allowing nations with less military might to counter stronger opponents effectively. However, this new form of warfare also comes with challenges. Ethical considerations, drone regulation, and the potential misuse of these devices in the wrong hands are just some of the issues that need to be addressed.
In a world where technology is advancing at a breakneck pace, the militarization of drones presents an intriguing and somewhat alarming glimpse into the future of warfare. It emphasizes that innovation emerges in the face of adversity, altering conventional wisdom and setting new standards for combat strategies.
This trend also raises questions about the nature of warfare in the future. Will traditional battlefield tactics become obsolete? Will the drone operators replace the soldiers on the battlefield? These are questions only time can answer. But one thing is certain, drones have irreversibly changed warfare, and their influence is likely to grow as technology continues to evolve.
Images courtesy of BFM TV.
Get your Part 107 Certificate
Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.
FTC: DroneXL.co uses affiliate links that generate income.* We do not sell, share, rent out, or spam your email, ever. Our email goes out on weekdays around 5:30 p.m.