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Ukrainians Crowdfund 'People's Drone' to Patrol Russian Border

Published: June 30, 2014 (Issue # 1817)



  • The "people's drone" will have modest specs compared to modern military unmanned craft.
    Photo: Narodniy.org.ua

Combine a cash-strapped army and a supportive, tech-savvy population, and something like this was bound to happen: Ukrainians have turned to online crowdfunding to raise money for a "people's drone" to help the military patrol their country's borders.

The People's Project website said it had collected 426,579 hryvnas ($36,000) — some 8,000 hryvnas ($675) more than it had sought — to build a drone to help boost Ukrainian government defenses against pro-Russian separatists in the east.

But the work is far from complete, organizers said on their website, adding that they were aiming to procure at least 10 drones in the "first batch," but that hundreds more would probably be needed.

In the communal spirit of the Euromaidan public protests that toppled former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych earlier this year, Ukrainians have also been donating cash to the military to help procure food, bulletproof vests, binoculars and painkilling medicines, and — perhaps concerned about corruption — have been personally delivering the supplies to soldiers.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry — whose budget totaled $1.9 billion last year, according to military magazine Jane's Defense Weekly — asked Ukrainians for money earlier this year, and announced in late May that 126.4 million hryvnas (about $10.7 million) had been raised under its "Support the Ukrainian Army" project. To compare, Russia's defense budget for 2013 stood at $68.9 billion, according to Jane's Defense Weekly.

The donated money would be used to buy supplies such as uniforms and sleeping bags for government soldiers, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.

The military also expressed a need for reconnaissance drones in spring when People's Project activists delivered much-needed communication radios, fundraising organizers said.

The "people's drone" will have modest specs compared to modern military unmanned craft, with a speed of 120 kilometers per hour and an endurance of one hour, according to the People's Project website.

"It's imperfect. In many ways," organizers said. But Ukrainian engineers do not have the time or technologies to build a better drone quickly, and "this craft will be fighting right away," the website said.

The People's Project had also raised more than 1 million hryvnas ($84,500) by late May to help field the "first people's paratrooper battalion," and is collecting funds for a second one and for the "first people's sniper" unit.

"Snipers are very efficient in an anti-terrorist zone as they help to prevent big losses. That's why we started equipping them," David Arakhania, an IT executive from Kiev who founded the site in March, told Britain's The Guardian.

Pro-Russian separatists claimed earlier this month to have shot down a government drone near the eastern town of Horlivka, the Voice of Russia reported. Two weeks earlier, the Ukrainian Security Service released pictures of what it said was a Russian drone that it had captured.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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