In an interview with UNIAN, the representative of Aerorozvidka NGO Yuriy Bosykh explains why domestic UAV manufacturers will face difficulties in a month or two, which Ukrainian companies have moved their facilities abroad, and gives a disturbing prognostication of russia’s production of Shahed 136.
Ukrainian drone manufacturers have a potential for Ukraine to become one of the world’s top five in this field. The experience of using domestic UAVs in warfare gives a huge advantage, but it is impossible to reach the highest level without government support. UNIAN talked to Yuriy Bosykh, a representative of Aerorozvidka NGO about the problems and prospects of the industry.
Mr. Bosykh, how are UAVs evolving in modern warfare? Who’s winning in our realities?
It’s difficult to assess the situation downright as there are qualitative and quantitative indicators. If you find some technological solution, for example, something that provides resistance to interference of the data transmission system, the control channel, etc., you temporarily become ‘king of the air’. After a while, the adversary will use ELINT to study UAV-emitted signals and begin creating obstacles... We face the problems of combat application.
Overall, 95% of UAVs are purchased in the West. And those 95% are commercial (not military) products. That percentage also includes our partners’ help, but it doesn’t always meet modern combat requirements. Some complexes are absolutely technologically imperfect, or even outdated for the modern level of countering the enemy. Consequently, they don’t fly for a long time - one or two flights and we record them as combat losses.
There are plenty of initiative groups and teams that actively develop new products. Their number has increased, but it isn’t serial production yet. Large complexes are produced in limited quantities, just a few are produced monthly and smaller ones are produced in dozens. Our developers keep improving their UAVs. They have started producing a lot of FPV drones. There are about 20 designs, the output of which is about a hundred units monthly. However, there is no large-scale production yet.
Because of what?
Because there’s a shortage of components, lack of finances, limited professional resources. People haven’t moved away from manufactory yet — we don’t have a DJI factory where the production process is almost fully automated. There are logistical challenges. There are components that fall under dual or even military use. Then you must have certain permissions to import, and the export control service does not help import components yet. Control is not well organized. In our country, it is easier to ban than to carry out such control.
How much more difficult has it become since China imposed export restrictions on UAVs and components?
The time when the lack of components becomes tangible is already beginning. There are still some stocks, but in a month or two the shortage will be very tangible. All manufacturers are searching for alternative supply schemes.
Are there any Ukrainian companies that manufacture drones abroad, say in Poland, the Baltic States?
Yes, some manufacturers have moved part of their production facilities to neighboring countries. This simplifies the purchase of components, as there are many logistical constraints in Ukraine. They import their products to us. However, there are also certain restrictions here: if you produce UAVs in Ukraine, you cannot export them abroad. At the same time, companies that have relocated their facilities can export their products anywhere.
Is this a theoretical possibility, or do they really export?
There are companies that successfully export their products and those that refuse to share details, claiming that it is a matter of privacy and finances. This is already a moral and ethical issue.
On the other hand, our Armed Forces have a constant need for UAVs. Ukrainian companies face difficulties in delivering UAVs to the Armed Forces because suppliers do not meet certain criteria for concluding government contracts, do not have licenses, accounts in the Treasury, etc.
Do we need so many companies and groups of enthusiasts making drones now? Are we scattering our potential as a result?
If there is no competition, the situation will start to deteriorate. In principle, the number of companies that can import components is already artificially limited. As a result, we already have a deficit and a certain level of corruption. This kills the development of the industry and raises prices in the domestic market.
Now we have made a certain technological leap. People come to the concept of cooperation: some companies make navigation systems, others — composite materials, flight controllers, and so on. It's a good time to open up opportunities for everyone. This allows us to make the technological leap now and in the post-war period. Our systems have been successfully used in combat conditions. This is a big plus for competition on the world market. This product is in demand.
Can you predict how the production of Ukrainian UAVs will develop?
It is difficult to predict, since the future of the production of Ukrainian UAVs depends on the political decisions of the authorities.
First, in addition to the enthusiasm, government support is very important for the successful development of the industry. Second, it is necessary to raise the professional level all the time.
The state must set high standards, encourage innovation and establish requirements for key components. It should say: "Do you want to enter this industry? Get away from 'assembling Legos,' i.e. mass-produced components that can be quickly assembled into standard technical solutions. Focus on innovative developments." And then it shoul set the requirements for navigation, propeller, fuel, and communication systems. It is necessary to "raise the bar" in terms of requirements in order to jump over it. This will help improve quality and competitiveness.
Although it is difficult to become the best in the world, with the state support of the industry, we can enter the top five drone manufacturers — we have the potential for this.
Can there be a big change in russia’s production of UAVs?
The enemy has stable financial support and government policy in the production of UAVs. Even with possible corruption losses, their investment in technology exceeds ours significantly. Another thing is that they may face shortages of components. However, they can use the government support of the parallel import system and develop their technology based on the mass microcontrollers used in everything from washing machines to cars. It is necessary to be careful and not to underestimate their engineering capabilities.
Has the enemy succeeded in launching the production of shahed drones?
As far as we can judge from open source information, they face certain difficulties. But they bought the factory. Part of the technological equipment is transferred to them. Given their base, they will change something and start producing UAVs. This is quite a serious technological leap. Not in six months, but may be in a year, they will be able to set up the process, if the external conditions do not change.
I would like to briefly summarize our conversation. We need to think about how to destroy not only enemy UAVs, but also their production facilities. It is necessary to develop and increase the in-house production of UAVs of all types, especially long-range strike UAVs.
We must keep the pace and use all opportunities to shorten the distance and move the industry forward. It is a matter of our survival as a nation. We need the systemic state policy to ensure success in this field and our victory. Glory to Ukraine!
Interview made by Vlad Abramov for UNIAN.russia ukraine war uavs components