Russia, Ukraine Increasingly Rely on FPV Drones for Close Combat

Price of each FPV drone is about $400
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  • 05:18 AM, January 4, 2024
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Russia, Ukraine Increasingly Rely on FPV Drones for Close Combat
First Person View (FPV) drone @Ukrainian media

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has witnessed a significant shift in the use of First Person View (FPV) drones, according to research conducted by Open-source intelligence analyst Andrew Perpetua.

The data, collected between August and December 2023, sheds light on the evolving dynamics of drone warfare in the region.

The research indicates that Ukraine has been actively sourcing FPV drones from various sources, including foreign initiatives. In contrast, Russia has emphasized its own increased production of FPV drones, though Lancet drones have also been a focus. Notably, Lancet figures are less relevant due to their high cost, limiting their use to high-value targets.

Examining the total number of attacks on infantry over the four-month period, Ukrainians consistently surpassed Russians until December 2023. The Ukrainians utilized FPVs for 1,186 strikes, compared to Russia's 1,026. Lancet drones were used for infantry strikes 45 times during the same period.

A notable discrepancy emerged in the comparison of vehicle strikes. Ukraine demonstrated dominance with 1,688 FPV strikes against vehicles, while Russia recorded only 459. The Lancet, used about 202 times, did not alter the trend significantly. Possible reasons for this difference include training disparities or increased Russian assaults.

A day-by-day examination revealed a spike in Ukrainian FPV activity on October 6th around Avdiivka, with minimal Lancet impact. For vehicle strikes, Ukraine consistently outpaced Russia, with an average of 13 daily strikes compared to Russia's four.

From August to December 2023, Russia employed 1,485 FPV drones, while Ukraine used 2,874. Contrary to initial speculations, Russia's presumed dominance in FPV and Lancet production did not translate into on-field superiority. Lancet's effectiveness is limited, favoring cheaper FPVs. Ukraine has demonstrated sustained capability in delivering FPV drones to the front lines, maintaining dominance.

The data challenges the narrative of Russian superiority in drone warfare. While the situation may evolve, the evidence suggests that Ukraine's sustained use of FPVs has countered initial expectations. Additionally, reports of Russian FPV drones fabricated in China underscore Russia's inability to outproduce Ukraine in this critical area.

Why is Ukraine using so many FPV drones?

FPV drones, increasingly used in military operations, are being produced and assembled in various places. Special glasses with a first-person view (FPV) control these drones, known for their superior maneuverability compared to traditional drones. They are swift, making detection and interception challenging, with a carrying capacity of ~1.5 kilograms of explosives and approximately 8-kilometer range. Parts for FPV drones are readily available in the market, originally intended for civilian use in sports racing and entertainment.

In conflict zones, these drones are utilized to accurately navigate Russian dugouts, tank hatches, and vehicles. The civilian market offers ready-made drones at varying prices based on technical specifications. Combat drones, constructed from Chinese modules, cost around $400, while Ukrainian-made versions are more expensive. Funding for drone projects often comes from patrons, including IT company owners and entrepreneurs, who support bulk orders exceeding 50 drones.

"Workshop huts" along the contact line are widespread, serving as hubs where Ukrainian soldiers build UAVs. Currently, Ukraine produces 10,000 to 12,000 drones monthly, showcasing the prevalence and significance of these workshops in supporting military efforts.

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