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19 Jan, 2024 12:18

Ukrainian drone maker blasts ‘total disorganization’ in government

The incompetence of officials stands in the way of the war-crucial industry, the CEO has claimed
Ukrainian drone maker blasts ‘total disorganization’ in government

The Ukrainian drone industry, which country’s leadership touts as being cutting-edge, is suffering from government red tape, logistical problems and general uncertainty, a key domestic manufacturer has said.

Ukrainian officials have identified drone warfare as crucial to gaining an edge in the fight against Russia. Production is not centralized and includes multiple manufacturers competing for state contracts, an approach that – according to proponents – fosters innovation and allows greater flexibility.

Aleksey Danilov, secretary of the national Security Council, claimed in an interview this week that Ukraine has proven to be highly successful at developing unmanned aerial aircraft.

“Our country is definitely in the top three in the world,” he insisted on national television on Thursday. “Its products are so advanced that some of our partners are seeking our advice. They study the hardware made by our private companies.”

The viewpoint clashed with remarks on the same day from Artyom Vyunnik, CEO of drone maker Athlon Avia. The firm was launched a decade ago and is one of a handful of survivors among the UAV startups of the time. Speaking to the online news outlet Radio NV, he described the current environment as “far from ideal” for the industry.

Vyunnik identified a lack of planning by officials as a major obstacle. This month Athlon Avia received a production request for the first quarter of the year. The CEO said: “I could laugh if I didn’t want to cry” over how untimely it was.

“Logistics alone takes five to six months, and there is also time required for manufacturing,” while demand in Ukraine for foreign drone components has gone up by an order of magnitude.

Red tape has got worse in the two years since the outbreak of the conflict with Russia, even as officials have claimed they are seeking to liberalize arms procurement, Vyunnik explained. Over that period, “state contract rules have changed like four times… and with each iteration [they] got less clear and more risky for producers.” Newcomers have concerns that due to the labyrinthine system they could end up in jail, he added.

Asked by the host whether he thought intentional sabotage was involved, Vyunnik replied that he didn’t think so, and blamed “total disorganization and miscommunication” in the Ukrainian government.

Last week, Ukrainian Digital Transformation Minister Mikhail Fedorov suggested that citizens could help the military by producing small drones at home. He called the plan “realistic” and said participants would only need to complete a short training course first.