Desperate Ukrainian inventors and scientists have increasingly turned to homemade tech, including drones and jammers, in a stop-gap effort to keep invading Russian forces at bay.
“We’re just trying to save lives,” a Kharkiv-based engineer calling himself “Kulibin” told the Sunday Times of London. “That’s the most important thing.”
A loose network of Ukrainian tinkerers is buying up drone parts online and pumping out signal jammers with the help of 3D printers.
One group of science students in Kyiv is gathering used e-cigarettes and repurposing them as drone batteries. Others are creating jerry-rigged targeting software and antennae.
Both Russian and Ukrainian forces rely on commercial drones, using them as deadly reconnaissance tools amid the relentless artillery battles raging in the eastern part of the country. The tech has made for precision targeting: Ukrainian fighters expect to be hit by Russian counterstrikes just two minutes after firing.
Russia is attacking with up to 2,500 shells and rockets an hour, ten times more than Ukraine fires off, according to officials in Kyiv — and killing up to 200 Ukrainian soldiers a day, said an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The only thing we can do is hide,” said Monk, a member of the Ukrainian air defense.
Kulibin’s homemade jammers link to an app that measures the number of satellite signals in a soldier’s immediate area. The data tells the Ukrainian operator when a Russian drone is likely to be working nearby.
The fighter then points the jammer at the drone and sends out a high-frequency radio wave to disrupt its signal — causing the drone to land, change course, or crash.
“Drones are the biggest problem,” said Serhii, a young soldier fighting north of Kharkiv. “If we have a place to hide, we hide, otherwise we just send information to the command and hope for the best.”