Small teams of soldiers control the drones from off-road vehicles near the front line, relaying location and topographic data to artillery batteries via military channels on Telegram.
They are providing real-time information, OK, guys, 100 meters to the left, 50 meters to the right, that kind of thing, Iakovenko said.
Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on UAV use in conflict, said the Ukrainian military had shown greater innovation than its Russian adversary in integrating the tech into its armed response.
She said that we are not looking at just drones but rather drones that are used in conjunction with other systems such as artillery.
That is what makes a new technology revolutionary, not just having it in the field, but how you use it. Franke said that the system used in a novel way that has a real impact is used for drones used with artillery.
Ukraine uses drones to help target artillery. Franke said the UAVs in the sinking of the Russian warship Moskva, in which Turkish-made, fixed-wing drones were allegedly deployed as decoys to trick the vessel's aerial defence system, showed their versatility during conflict. The U.K. Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that Ukraine had used drones to attack Russian air defense and resupply ships.
They're defending their territory, which normally makes you more innovative, and civilian volunteers are more likely to use them in a way that the military wouldn't normally, Franke said.
UAVs are also being used in eastern Ukraine to limit friendly fire incidents and avoid collateral damage, according to Iakovenko, as well as providing artillery with greater accuracy.
Ukrainians are fighting on their own land. He said our goal is to win with the least damage to infrastructure and to avoid civilian casualties. Drones allow them to strike with the maximum precision and to limit infrastructure damage. He conceded that Russia was also using UAVs to good effect in the conflict. More than 50 drones Russia has lost since invading suggests that they are a key part of its military operation, although figures are harder to come by.
The drones '' surveillance and reconnaissance benefits would mean little without the heavy artillery to back them up, and this was a problem for Ukraine in the opening days of the conflict.
Mark Cancian, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the major challenge for Ukraine and its allies was to acquire Soviet-standard shells to fit the D-30 howitzers that Kyiv already possessed. These shells are 152 mm in diameter and cannot be fired in NATO-standard heavy guns, which have a 155 mm gauge.
Cancian said there aren't that many places to get it once you rule out Russia and China.
That is one reason why the U.S. and others are giving Ukraine NATO-standard, because there are lots of countries around the world that make that, he said.
In the past few weeks, the U.S. France and Germany have all provided heavy artillery systems to Ukraine. Canada provided M 777 cannons, which can fire guided shells, and the U.S. is reportedly going to follow suit, Cancian said.
Cancian, a retired U.S. Marine colonel, said the heavy weapon arriving from NATO allies would allow Ukraine to replenish its ammunition stocks.
He said that is hugely important, especially if you think the war is going to last a long time.