Russia and Ukraine used a wide range of weapons and technologies, but drones were the main weapon for both sides.
Thousands of drones were used during the invasion to locate, launch missiles and direct artillery fire on the enemy.
As both sides use different technology, Ukraine has deployed a military drone, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2.
Drones are the size of small aircraft with cameras and can be armed with laser-guided bombs.
Dr. Jack Watling of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) research center says Ukraine started with Bayraktar’s fleet of “less than 50”.
According to Dr. Watling, Russia mainly used Orlan-10, a small and simple UAV.
“Russia started the war with some thousands of them, and may have a few hundred left,” he said.
Orlan drones have cameras and can carry small bombs.
Two drones helped locate enemy targets and directed artillery fire.
“Russian forces can bring their guns to bear on the enemy within only three to five minutes of an Orlan-10 drone spotting a target,” noted Dr. Watling.
However, without it, the attack can last 20-30 minutes.
Dr. Marina Meron, a defense researcher at King’s College London, noted that drones have allowed Ukraine to expand its limited military.
“If you wanted to seek out enemy positions in the past, you would have had to send out special forces units to do it,” she says.
“You might lose some troops. Now, all you’re risking is a drone.”
When the war broke out, the usefulness of Bayraktar drones was widely praised in Ukraine.
“They were shown attacking targets, such as ammunition dumps, and played a part in the sinking of the [warship] Moskva,” Dr. Miron said.
Though widely applauded, many Bayraktar were destroyed by enemy defenses over the course of several months.
“They are largely, relatively slow-moving, and fly at only medium altitude,” Dr. Watling pointed out.
“That makes them easy to shoot down.”
The high price makes it difficult to replace the drone. For example, the Bayraktar TB2 is priced at $2 million.
As a result, Ukraine uses small commercial models like the DJI Mavic 3, which costs just over $2,000.
A Ukrainian drone manufacturer speculates that the country has deployed 6,000 drones, but there is no confirmation.
Commercial drones can be equipped with small bombs, but are mainly used to identify and directly attack enemy forces.
Commercial drones have a range of only 30km and a travel time of 46 minutes, making them less powerful than military drones.
“Ukraine doesn’t have as much ammunition as Russia,” says Dr. Miron.
“Having ‘eyes in the sky’ to spot targets and direct artillery fire means they can make better use of what they have.”
The White House says Russia has acquired Sahid military drones from Iran.
Houthi rebels in Yemen are using the same drones to attack targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has received a shipment of 700 “Kamikaze” Switchblade military aircraft from the United States.
Drones are filled with explosives and hover in the air until they find a target.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX also offers satellite communications in Ukraine which offers a safe relationship between drones and operators.
DJI stopped delivering drones in Russia and Ukraine.
Payments for Ukrainian drones
In addition to US donations, Ukraine has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the purchase of 200 military drones.
“As well as large drones like [Bayraktar] TB2, they are looking for small, fixed-wing reconnaissance drones,” said Dr. Watling.
Ukrainian winner of the Eurovision Song Contest “Kalush Orchestra” sold the trophy for $900,000.
They donated money to invite UAVs to purchase three Ukrainian PD-2 drones.