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Meet the Ukrainians aiding the country's war effort with 'kitchen drones'

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At a farmer’s field about an hour’s drive from Kyiv is where we meet Yuliya Myronenko. She gets out of her car when we arrive, wearing a coat, hat and drone goggles on top of her head.

She comes to this field every week to test drones that have been built by an army of volunteers from across Ukraine.

“They are called kitchen drones,” she laughs, a nickname given because most people are building them at their kitchen tables. She volunteers with one of the many organizations providing instructions and advice on drone building, an industry that has boomed since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began two years ago.

“When they work on the drones they send us photos of their soldering and we give them feedback,” she says. “Then they can enhance it and can make it better.”

These are relatively basic, single-use drones. Depending on their size, they can carry a payload of between 1.5 and four kilograms, or 3.5 to nearly nine pounds. It’s enough to take out armoured personnel carriers, tanks and troops.

Myronenko began learning about drones when her husband joined the army two years ago. She says he was gone for long stretches and it was something they could do together when he came home.

“You have to keep relations alive somehow,” she says. “I miss him so much and this is something we could do together.”

The Drone War

This is not the first war where drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, have been used on the battlefield. They were deployed in eastern Ukraine when Russia’s aggression began in 2014 and have been used extensively in Syria, Libya and during the Israel-Hamas war.

But their use in this conflict has led to dramatic changes on the battlefield, from providing real-time surveillance to taking out targets with similar to precision to artillery weapons.

Assembled drones waiting for testing at a facility in Kyiv. (CTV National News)

According to, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, drones were able to damage or destroy 73 Russian tanks, 95 armoured vehicles and three ammunition storage facilities during a single week in January. He says they also injured or killed 369 troops.

Earlier this year, Ukraine created a separate branch of the armed forces devoted specifically to drones, with a target to produce one million drones domestically by the end of the year. With so many different sources of production, the ministry will also ensure drones are up to a certain standard and delivered in a timely manner.

'Fighting for our existence'

Olexiy Babenko has quickly ramped up his drone business since the war began. He first taught himself how to build them in the days following the invasion. His company now has 80 employees assembling drones six days a week.

“Really, drones change this war,” he says. “They can save lives. They also take lives.”

For now, Babenko's company works out of a nondescript building in Kyiv. There are no signs on the door and he says they take their garbage with them at the end of each day. They don’t want anyone to know they are there, or what they’re doing as Russia has stepped up their strikes against drone manufacturers.

A man assembles drones at a facility in Kyiv. (CTV National News)

“We change the place a lot of times during the year,” he says. “So it’s hard to find where we are and damage this place.”

They don’t keep all of their supplies in one place, so even if they did get hit by a Russian airstrike he says they’d be able to quickly get back up and running.

“You can’t kill every building,” he says. “And in every building someone is making a drone.”

Aid slows, Russia advances

As this war enters its third year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has acknowledged his country is losing ground. With Western support slowing and military aid from the United States stalled in congress, Zelenskyy has acknowledged the next few months will be difficult.

Ukrainians are worried, but committed to their country.

“You have to take your life back,” Myronenko says. “Take your power and fight against this evil. We are fighting for our existence. If we don’t fight, we will not exist.” 

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