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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.





 


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Saturday, Nov. 29


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Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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