Ground Drones Revolutionize Ukraine’s Warfront

Unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), aka , have emerged as the latest frontier in Ukraine's ongoing conflict. Since the onset of the Russian invasion 16 months ago, this new class of drones has received significant attention, promising to revolutionize warfare.

At the helm of this innovative field is Yevhen Hnatok, a 22-year-old Ukrainian engineer who has supplied the armed forces with several remotely controlled UGVs. He envisions these green machines, hardly discernible in long grass and armed with landmines, as a game-changer.

“If they see it at this distance, they won't even have time to pray,” Hnatok stated in reference to Russian forces.

As the war evolves, UGVs carrying explosives and weapons or undertaking reconnaissance missions are increasingly seen as potential assets. Small-scale engineers like Hnatok hope to turn the tide of the conflict by replacing troops with machines on the frontlines, a strategy aimed at preserving human life.

Among Hnatok's creations are small UGVs that can transport anti-tank mines or remotely operated machine guns up to 10 km (6 miles) from their operator. Larger models under development promise to carry a 20mm cannon. Other UGVs serve logistic roles, like transporting artillery shells to gunners.

's defense innovation community reportedly blends young IT professionals with veteran Soviet-trained aerospace and tank engineers. Hnatok, however, doesn't fit the mold, having learned his skills from his stepfather. Despite facing challenges with parts supply due to war-induced price inflation, Hnatok continues to produce UGVs, only charging the military for production costs.

UGVs are touted for their affordability; parts for Hnatok's smaller models cost less than 30,000 hryvnias ($812). However, Samuel Bendett, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, notes that the impact of UGVs in combat has been limited so far. Still, he encourages watching the sector as armies scramble to develop vehicles that offer a tactical edge.

Hnatok's focus now is on mass-producing affordable UGVs, including single-use kamikaze vehicles, although he admits needing more staff to meet current orders. He remains optimistic, seeing his work as part of the drive toward long-term survival in combat.

“It's this type of battlefield innovation at the tactical edge in Ukraine that's going to (bring about) eventual emerging solutions,” he said.

The ultimate goal, though distant, is to network UGVs with human operators, UAVs, and manned assets for autonomous operation in battle, making Ukraine's grassroots innovation a significant player in this arms race.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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