Ukrainian soldier attributes video-game obsession to successful drone strikes on Russian targets

Ukrainian soldier attributes video-game obsession to successful drone strikes on Russian targets

Ukrainian Drone Operators: From Video Games to Battlefield

Drone Operator

In the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Ukrainian drone operators are using their video game skills to make a significant impact on the battlefield. These operators, like the 25-year-old Mykhailo, are piloting small and inexpensive first-person view (FPV) drones to engage Russian forces. Operating these drones with a joystick and virtual reality headset, these operators have drawn comparisons to video game players, leveraging their gaming expertise to achieve deadly drone strikes.

Mykhailo, also known as a Ukrainian gamer-turned-drone operator, shares how his childhood passion for video games has now become an essential part of his military skills. Recalling his mother’s doubts about the usefulness of video games, Mykhailo jokingly remarks, “Well, if this isn’t useful, then what is?” His success as a drone operator is a testament to the transfer of skills from virtual reality to reality itself.

This is not an isolated anecdote. Another Ukrainian drone operator, Olexandr, formerly a software engineer, agrees with the video game comparison. He describes the drone operation as “playing a computer game.” Olexandr has earned a reputation as one of Ukraine’s deadliest drone pilots. These accounts highlight the increasing role of video game expertise in modern warfare.

Ukraine is capitalizing on the affordability and accessibility of FPV drones, which can be created using commercial off-the-shelf drones and modified with explosives. These drones, also known as loitering munitions or “suicide” drones, explode upon impact with their target. Compared to the multi-million-dollar Bayraktar drones that initially gained attention, FPVs have become the primary focus due to their low cost, typically a few hundred dollars each. Consequently, the skies over Ukraine have witnessed a shift in drone usage, as the more expensive drones have largely disappeared from the conflict.

Despite their low-cost nature, FPVs have proven to be highly effective. Circulating video footage captured from an FPV’s point of view shows it successfully destroying one of Russia’s sophisticated T-90 tanks. In another incident, Ukraine’s Air Assault Force shared footage of an FPV striking yet another T-90 tank. These nimble drones have an outsize impact, taking on formidable targets with surprising success.

However, it is vital to note that employing FPVs as a unified tactic is not without its flaws. Ukrainian operators acknowledge a success rate of approximately 50-80%, significantly lower than that of more expensive and advanced drones. This discrepancy in success rates is attributed to the technological advantage of signal jammers used by Russia. These jammers interfere with the GPS systems of drones, disrupt radio communications, and pose a significant challenge to Ukrainian operators. It is an ongoing cat-and-mouse game between the drone operators and Russian signal jammers.

Reportedly, Ukraine is losing an average of 10,000 drones per month, as disclosed in a report from the UK’s Royal United Services Institute. Small drones, likely including FPVs, account for the majority of these losses. Despite these setbacks, Ukrainian drone operators continue to adapt and improve their tactics, striving to enhance the success rate while utilizing their gaming skills effectively.

In conclusion, the emergence of Ukrainian drone operators employing video game skills on the battlefield provides a fascinating glimpse into the evolving nature of warfare. As technology continues to advance rapidly, traditional skills once considered mere hobbies are finding valuable applications in unexpected arenas. Mykhailo and Olexandr, along with many others, are proving that the boundary between virtual reality and reality itself is becoming increasingly blurred. Their success showcases the potential for innovation and adaptability in modern conflict zones.