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Russia and Ukraine are filling the sky with drones. There are so many buzzing around over eastern Ukraine, they're actually crashing into one another: report

Two Ukrainian soldiers look up at a drone.
Ukrainian soldiers fly a drone during a military training session in Donetsk, Ukraine on August 17, 2023. Anadolu Agency
  • Russian and Ukrainian drones are causing traffic jams in the Donetsk airspace, a pilot said.

  • Both countries are increasingly relying on the unmanned aerial vehicles to wage war.

  • Ukrainian officials said the country is losing 40 to 45 drones each day.

Ukrainian and Russian drones are overrunning the battlefield these days as both countries increasingly relying on the unmanned aerial vehicles to wage modern war.

At any given time, dozens of Ukrainian and Russian drones are patrolling the skies above Vuhledar in the east, near ongoing fighting in the Donetsk region, Ukrainian drone pilot Mykola Voroshnov told the Ukrainian news outlet Unian. The unmanned aerial vehicles fly criss-crossing flight paths, causing jams and occasional collisions, Forbes reported this week, citing Voroshnov.

"The area has turned into 'Frankfurt Airport:' a frenzied traffic of drones — both their own and those of others," Voroshnov told Unian. "It's like a crossroads in India."

Drones are also playing a role near the front line where Russians are attempting to counterattack as Ukraine advances amid offensive operations and test Ukrainian lines near the recently liberated southeastern village of Robotyne, an unofficial Ukrainian Telegram channel used by soldiers of the 46th separate airmobile brigade said this week, CNN reported.

"There is a constant tactical coverage of each other's positions and all this under the constant supervision of reconnaissance drones of both ours and the enemy," the channel said, according to CNN.

Ukraine long held a clear advantage in the use of drones, employing the unmanned systems for myriad uses, including targeting Russian equipment, evacuating wounded soldiers from the battlefield, and bringing the war to Russia's front door, and even into its house, with a series of recent base, airport, and infrastructure attacks.

"We were absolute masters in the night sky," Voroshnov told Unian.

But that advantage isn't as clear as it once was. Amid Ukraine's current counteroffensive, Russia has effectively adapted its drone defenses while upping its own drone supply, Forbes reported. Following in Ukraine's footsteps, Russia has acquired several small drones, including quick first-person view (FPV) drones, which cost only a few hundred dollars but can be equipped with explosives that easily take out pricey equipment.

Voroshnov told Unian that he fears Ukraine is starting to fall behind. There are indications, however, that Ukraine may still maintain an edge in drone warfare.

Ukraine has relied heavily on crowd-sourcing donations to obtain many of the drones in its arsenal, but there's also top-level support, something Russia still lacks in some cases, such as FPV drones. Ukraine is also fielding new innovations, such as drone boats that have hit critical infrastructure and even Russian warships.

Still, Ukrainian forces are battling drone losses, officials said this week. Yuri Shchyhol, head of the state special communications service, said on Ukrainian TV on Tuesday that the country is losing about 40 to 45 reconnaissance drones each day, including basic Mavic and Matrice vehicles, as well as large professional drones of Ukrainian and foreign production.

The Royal United Services Institute think tank, or RUSI, put the losses much higher earlier this year, estimating that Ukraine is losing around 10,000 drones per month. It is unclear if the analysis overstated these losses or if Ukrainian officials are downplaying the rate at which their unmanned assets are being eliminated.

As a result, Ukrainian drone operators have to be strategic with how and when they use drones, Voroshnov said.

The challenges and obstacles aside, both countries' increasing dependency on drones throughout the conflict signals a massive technological shift in modern warfare.

"We are moving to smart war," Voroshnov told Unian.

Read the original article on Business Insider