Instead, Ukraine wants to use the data being collected for its defense sector. “After the war ends, Ukrainian companies will enter the market and offer solutions that maybe no one else has,” says Bornyakov.
In recent months, Ukraine has talked about its ambitions to use its battlefield innovations to build its own military technology industry.
“We want to build a very strong defense technology industry,” says Nataliia Kushnerska, project manager for Brave1, a Ukrainian state-owned platform designed to make it easier for defense technology companies to pitch their products to the military. The country still wants to partner and collaborate with international companies, she says, but there is a growing emphasis on local solutions.
Building a domestic industry would help protect the country from future Russian aggression, Kushnerska says. And Ukrainians understand the dynamics of the battlefield better than their international counterparts. “Technologies that cost a lot of money, created [overseas] labs, they’re coming to the front line and they’re not working,” she says.
Brave1 – which was exclusively open to Ukrainian companies for the first two months of its existence – is not the country’s only attempt to build a homegrown industry. Kushnerska describes secret technology conferences attended by Ukrainian technology leaders and Defense Ministry officials, where discussions can take place about what the military needs and how companies can help. In May, Ukraine’s parliament voted through a series of tax breaks for drone manufacturers in an effort to encourage the industry. These government efforts, combined with the high demand for drones and the motivation to win the war, are creating entire new industries, Bornyakov says. He claims the country now has more than 300 companies manufacturing drones.
One of those 300 companies is AeroDrone, which started as a spraying system based in Germany. By the time of the full invasion, the Ukrainian founder of the company, Yuri Pederi, had already returned to his country. But the war inspired him to run the business. Now the drones, which can carry heavy loads of up to 300 kilograms, are being used by the Ukrainian military.
“We don’t know what the military is transporting,” says Dmytro Shymkiv, a partner in the company who was once deputy chief of staff to Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president who preceded Zelenskyy. He may claim he doesn’t know what the AeroDrone drones are carrying, but the company is collecting massive amounts of data — up to 3,000 parameters — on each flight. “We’re very aware of what’s going on with every piece of equipment on board,” he says, adding that information about flying during congestion, or in different weather conditions, could be reused in other industries or even in other conflicts.
Aerodrone offers a glimpse of the future companies Bornyakov is describing. Armed with that data, the company sees a wide range of options for its future after the war ends, both military and civilian. If you can fly in a war zone, says Shymkiv, you can fly anywhere.