Back in April 2022, we wrote about R18 octocopters from Aerorozvidka. At the initial stage of the Great War, these small bombers were among the first to drop minibombs made of RKG-3 cumulative anti-tank grenades on the heads of the Russian occupiers, providing an interesting and reassuring video to the Ukrainians who were hiding in bomb shelters at the time. Taking advantage of this opportunity, we decided to talk with representatives of Aerorozvidka.
We will remind you that the non-governmental organization Aerorozvidka was created by Maidan volunteers and IT experts back in 2014, and since the beginning of the war in the East of Ukraine, it has been helping the Ukrainian military primarily with intelligence, as the name of the association states. Drones of Aerorozvidka helped point our artillery at convoys of Russian invaders headed for Kyiv in February-March 2022. But in addition to surveillance and reconnaissance drones, the arsenal of Aerorozvidka also includes attacking UAVs, the R18 octocopters.
Unfortunately, due to efforts to preserve a military secret and prepare several “pleasant” surprises for the enemy, some of our questions to Aerorozvidka had to be removed, and we were promised the answer to others after the victory. We talked to Vadym Yunyk, the head of the robotics technology department of Aerorozvidka NGO.
First of all, let me thank Aerozrovdka for what you do every day at the front and in the rear. Special thanks from the editorial staff of Mezha, as from the people of Kyiv, for the contribution that Aerorozvidka made during the Battle for Kyiv.
The most famous drone of Aerorozvidka is the R18. The clips shot by operators during the bombing of Russian positions are real hits! If it’s not a secret, how much does each such UAV cost and how long does it take to manufacture it?
The cost of the complex, which includes two R18 drones and a ground control station, is about $45,000.
Currently, Aerorozvidka has 20 R18 crews in various areas of the front. Is there not enough resource or does it make sense to increase the unit?
We cannot transfer the strike drone to pilots without experience, so we try to involve in this process military pilots who already have experience in using drones, while still additionally training them to control the R18 itself. It takes time and resources.
Someone from Aerorozvidka once said that drones are expendable material, the same as ammunition. How many drones do you lose every month? What are the most common factors: enemy fire, technical failures, operator errors?
It is partly so. The enemy knocks down the drones physically or disables them in some other way. This means being prepared to restore damaged drones or have a sufficient supply to replace destroyed ones.
But we can influence the level of drone losses. We understand that there is a direct dependence on the quality of training of the crew and the time that the drone “lives” on the battlefield. That’s why we try to transfer the application experience we get from experienced pilots during training.
We do not disclose exactly how our drones are destroyed and the number of lost units – at least until the end of the war, because this information is useful for the enemy. It gives him tips on how to fight R18, and we don’t need that.
R18 is currently the only UAV of Aerorozvidka of its own production, or are you preparing any new surprises for the enemy? Have you thought about drones with a longer range? Are you planning, for example, to install a revolver bomb drop mechanism on the R18, like the Taiwanese DronesVision Revolver 860?
Yes, we are preparing surprises for the enemy. When the time comes, you will see a “striking movie”! We are not planning to install a revolver bomb drop mechanism like the Taiwanese DronesVision Revolver 860 you are talking about.
How long does it take to train a UAV pilot? How different is the training of a copter pilot and a drone pilot, including in terms of time? Is it possible to retrain for a large drone later? And is it true that the best pilots come from players in video games?
UAV pilot training takes 2-3 weeks. We do not train drone pilots, so we cannot compare the differences when training on copters.
Video games and flying drones are not related. Indeed, there is a belief that video games affect skills. In fact, during training as a UAV pilot, it is important to acquire skills of interaction with a real complex, which cannot be borrowed from video games. So the statement that the best pilots come from players is not entirely true.
Ukraine has recently been terrorized by Iranian UAVs Shahed 136. How scary is this drone? And how to fight it?
The answer to your first question is simple. The drone is scary because it kills people. We can’t talk about how to fight it either, because the Russians, realizing what we know about Shahed, will change the tactics of using drones. It is not good for us.
Thanks again for the answers and for your work, Vadim.
And we urge our readers to continue to help Aerozrovdka repair damaged drones, build new ones to replace the ones out of order, and create new weapons that will destroy enemies even more efficiently. You can do this on the official page of the NGO in any currency and even crypto.