“One dollar invested in drones causes $1,000 in loses for the enemy”: how Ukraine’s Aerorozvidka works

The Aerorozvidka NGO (air intelligence) was founded in 2014, and now it works on supplying the Ukrainian army with unmanned aerial vehicles. The NGO reps explained to AIN.Capital the goal of Aerorozvidka and how vital drones are in this war.

How did Aerorozvidka arise?

The actual term “air intelligence” became common when Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014. Then, it was apparent that the Ukrainian military used drones to locate enemy positions and movements more effectively.

The history of the Aerorozvidka non-governmental organization also began in 2014: it used to be a group of volunteers without official status who applied serial drones for intelligence and fire support.

Later, most artillery observers joined a military unit created especially for such operations. It consisted of the Drone Team and a team that worked on the Delta Situational Awareness System. The second team continues working on a platform — a real-time updated multi-level map with data of locations, numbers, and movements of enemy units. They gather data from air intelligence, satellites, and informers sending info via chatbots. In particular, this system helped Ukrainian warriors make decisions during the Kyiv defense.

However, in 2020, the unit was disbanded and then reformed into the Centre of Innovation and Development of Defense Technologies. So, Aerorozvidka arose as an NGO and has been transformed into a military unit. The goal remains the same: supply the drones and IT equipment to the Ukrainian army.

How Aerorozvidka works now

The military always lacks drones since they are vital and consumable things at the same time. A drone doesn’t enjoy a long life at war: it can be shut down, damaged, broken, fall, or lost on the enemy-controlled territory.

So, the main task of Aerorozvidka is to supply drones to the army and sometimes develop their own ones (for example, before February 2022, the NGO delivered about 50 drones).

Another advantage of using drones is that, with relatively cheap equipment, it causes heavy losses to the enemy.

“We calculated that $1 invested in the production of an R18 drone causes $1,000 worth of damage to the enemy. If a drone hits a piece of equipment like a tank, it pays for itself in one flight. After all, destroyed equipment costs millions, but the equipment we work with costs tens or hundreds of thousands,” Aerorozvidka explained.

The Ukrainian defenders mostly use civilian UAVs now (such as Autel or DJI), but recently military drones from Western countries have also started arriving.

“Drones are very helpful and make a big difference on the front lines. They are changing the rules of engagement and the course of this war,” the NGO said.

For example, the UAVs and Starlink terminals helped Ukrainian Armed Forces stop a many-kilometer-long convoy approaching Kyiv from Belarus. Thanks to the communication built with the help of drones and starlinks, Ukrainians hit ammunition warehouses near the Belarussian border and cut the supply of the first-line occupiers, Aerorozvidka members reported.

The organization constantly publishes examples of effective drone use on YouTube. Here are a few cases:

Is it possible to join Aerorozvidka

From the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Aerorozvidka organized everyone who had drones and coordinated their work so that Kyiv’s First Situation Center would receive data from them.

Many of these volunteer operators later became fighters in various structures of the Ukrainian security and defense forces, mobilized or signed a contract and now work not as volunteers but as soldiers.

“If a person has experience operating a drone, they can join various units of Ukraine’s Armed Forces or other Ukrainian defense forces that have appropriate air intelligence units,” the organization says.