How Ukraine Is Developing Technologies That Will Influence Global Defenses

It comes as no surprise to hear of drones being used in warfare. Most of the world was introduced to drones via the Predator and Reaper drones, the most well know drones operated by the United States Military Forces. While the drone industry has vastly expanded to other sectors, their use in military operations still dominates. Drones allow military forces to precisely carry out missions from the air, land, and sea.

When news broke of the attack on the Crimean Bridge, otherwise known as the Kerch Bridge, on July 17, 2023, it wasn’t surprising to learn that it was done by two drones. What many people wanted to know was what type of drones were used, and who manufactured them. Most assumed that the attack was carried out by Ukranian forces and that the drones were supplied by an outside government. Soon after, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) claimed responsibility and announced that the drones were specially made within Ukraine in conjunction with the Ukrainian Navy.

Upon releasing footage of the attack, Vasyl Maliuk, head of service at the SBU, made it very clear that the drones were not provided by any Western supporters. “They do not participate in our operations or provide us with any equipment or anything else,” he said. “These drones are produced at an underground production facility in the territory of Ukraine.” The SBU has named this drone the Sea Baby, and it accompanies several other sea drones developed by Ukraine.

The SBU and Ukrainian Navy began developing the Sea Baby in 2022. The Sea Baby cost 8 million UAH (about $200,000) to build. It looks very much like a small speed boat, making it hard to decipher from other vessels out on the water. It can travel at 90km/h (about 60mph), is operational from at least 1,000km (roughly 620miles), and supports 850kg (just under 1,900lbs) worth of ammunition.

The Sea Baby is remotely operated via Starlink, a subsidiary of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Shortly after using two Sea Baby drones to disable the Kerch Bridge, Maliuk revealed that they had successfully used the drones in several subsequent missions. The Sea Baby proved so successful that in March of 2024, Ukraine released a new and improved Sea Baby to the public. The upgrades were made possible by a large scale volunteer fundraising campaign of nearly 300 million UAH ($7.3million).

The fundraising allowed for the SBU to build 35 new Sea Baby drones which would now go beyond Kamakazi operations. The new drones were developed to be multipurpose with detachable weapon mounts. The new batch of drones coming out of Ukraine just goes to show how quickly technology can be applied to solve situational needs. It won’t be long until other military forces begin adopting similar strategies for drones operated on the sea surface.

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