Ukraine is turning to Latvian-produced drones to bolster their defense efforts, eight months after Russia launched its invasion, according to local media.
Throughout the conflict, Ukraine has received military support from its allies—including the United States—to help defend its territory. Western-supplied weapons are credited with allowing Ukraine to retake thousands of square miles of Russian-occupied land in recent months.
This month, Ukraine began purchasing reconnaissance drones from a Latvia-based manufacturer. The drone buy comes at a critical point in the war as Russia faces mounting losses, prompting its military to ramp up attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure and annex key areas in the southeastern part of the country. Nuclear concerns also have grown.
Ukraine purchased more than 200 small reconnaissance drones from Atlas Aerospace— based in the Latvian capital of Riga—according to the Kyiv Independent, an English-language Ukrainian news outlet.
The drones are beneficial to the Ukrainian military because they are lighter, smaller, cheaper and easier to use than larger drones previously deployed against Russia.
However, the drones can fly a maximum distance of only about five miles and can stay in the air for about a half-hour, according to the Kyiv Independent. Other reconnaissance drones, including those produced by Turkish company Baykar, have the ability to travel farther.
Ukrainian troops are using the drones to locate Russian positions so they can more accurately target missiles.
Ivan Tolchinsky, the company’s Ukrainian-born founder, told the newspaper that drones will continue to emerge as a major technology in the war. He told the Kyiv Independent that the company is considering building a new production facility in Ukraine to help repair damaged drones quicker.
“The future of war is a battle between drones—not soldiers,” he said. “Drones will use artificial intelligence to make decisions whether to attack or not, saving human lives and costs.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July announced a global donation initiative to build an “army of drones” to help monitor the thousands-of-miles-long frontlines. The project sought international donors to provide funds to purchase reconnaissance drones or direct donations of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Latvia, which shares its eastern border with Russia, has backed Ukraine throughout the war. As of August, Latvia had provided nearly $300 million in military aid to Kyiv, while private donations from Latvian citizens and organizations amounted to nearly $18 million, according to The Defense Post.
Newsweek reached out to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense for comment.