Drone expert: Focus on supply chains to save Donbas

AS RUSSIA cuts supply lines to Ukrainians trapped in Donbas cities, the question of how to get necessities to where they’re most needed is a pressing one.

UK drone expert Robert Garbett is calling for world leaders to think laterally and consider deploying commercial drones to support supply efforts.

“Delivering supplies by rail, road or air is becoming extremely risky, or impossible, due to military activity,” he said. “Many (volunteers) give their lives doing so.”

Ukraine’s rail network, with 12,400 miles of track, has played a huge role in delivering refugees, aid and military ordnance to and from eastern Ukraine. Russia has targeted junctions to stop inbound military aid.

The UK has pledged a further £1.3bn in military support — which may not be able to reach the east of Ukraine. Garbett, CEO and founder of Drone Major Group Ltd, stresses the potential for commercial drone technology to assist.

Ukraine Air Force Drone
Drones have played an important role in Ukraine defences, like this Bayraktar TB2 of the Ukrainian Air Force. Photo: Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Drones have played an important role in Ukraine defences, but “we have yet to unleash their true potential to support Ukraine’s supply-chain infrastructure”, according to Garbett.

“With a huge range of fixed-wing, rotary-wing, gyrocopter or hybrid aircraft operating in a co-ordinates network of short- and long-range supply lines,” he says, “we could … deliver anything that front line forces or trapped civilians might need without risking a single human life.”

Commercial drones are capable alternatives to military models. There have been Ukrainian requests for air drone tech, focusing on offensive systems and Chinese camera systems, but “no one is offering them”, says Garbett.

“It seems no one is considering alternative methods for turning the tide against Putin’s aggression.” Fast-moving, quiet drones have an electronic warfare role to disrupt Russian communications. Small systems can also be used to deliver passive target-acquisition beacons.

“More could be done if we think more creatively about how we can utilise drones to help people across Ukraine,” he said. “Coupled with ingenuity and the determination of the Ukrainian people, I believe that this can make a huge difference in the struggle ahead.”