Making drones in the kitchen: Ukrainian civilians rise to meet military shortages

Making drones in the kitchen: Ukrainian civilians rise to meet military shortages
Home-made drone production is burgeoning in Ukraine / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews March 6, 2024

With Western support for Ukraine’s war effort suffering as a result of the United States’ failure to agree on a new aid package, ordinary Ukrainian citizens are stepping up to the plate.

On February 17, Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city of Avdiivka, ending a battle that started ten years ago in 2014. 

The loss of the city, home to the Avdiivka Coke Plant, once the largest coke producer in Ukraine, has been blamed by many on ammunition shortages and has highlighted the critical state of Ukraine's military resources. As things stand, the Ukrainian army finds itself severely outgunned, with reports indicating that they shoot five times fewer rounds than their Russian counterparts. This glaring disparity has underscored the urgent need for innovative solutions to bolster Ukraine's defence capabilities.

In the face of American inaction, ordinary Ukrainian citizens are now taking matters into their own hands. Grassroots self-organisation, as a means to address the shortages, has Ukrainians turning their skills from everyday life into ways to help protect their homeland.

From self-designed land drones to 3D-printed military components, these individuals are making significant contributions to Ukraine's military efforts.

One of those individuals is Yevhen Hnatok, a 23-year-old. Unlike most of the engineers building hardware for the army, Hnatok grew up in an orphanage and did not go to university. In the last two years Hnatok has pioneered the creation of self-designed armoured drones equipped for various functions such as demining, reconnaissance and ammunition deliveries.  His drones, costing as little as $800, have proved to be effective in saving Ukrainian soldiers' lives and neutralising enemy threats. He came up with the idea to make unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) after serving at the front.

"If they see it at this distance, they won't even have time to pray," he told Reuters in 2023.

Another young Ukrainian to have made a significant difference at the front line is Radomyr Tuituinnyk. At 16 years old, Tuituinnyk has already become a prolific drone engineer, assembling over 80 drones in just three months. He was inspired to build drones after hearing front-line stories from his father, and then dedicated his summer holiday to helping the war effort.


Violetta Oliinyk, a former jeweller, has redirected her expertise towards assembling FPV drones for reconnaissance and combat, supplying the Ukrainian army with at least 31 drones. The Chernitvsi-based Oliinyk supplied her first drone to her father’s unit. Following positive reviews, the military asked her to make more.


The 3D Printing Army, led by Ievhen Volnov, has mobilised thousands of enthusiasts to utilise their 3D printers for producing essential military equipment, ranging from artillery casings to drone components. This decentralised network has become a vital resource for supplying Ukrainian soldiers with much-needed resources on the front line.

Like Volnov, another individual using 3D printers is Artur Alekseenko, a school teacher, who has leveraged his IT skills to initiate a 3D printing initiative within his private school. As a result he has provided drone components and customised items to the Ukrainian Army. 

Additionally, Oleksii Asanov's KazhanFly school and the ‘Social Drone UA’ initiative have facilitated free drone flying education and assembly lessons for Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers. This grassroots movement has established a network of qualified engineers dedicated to manufacturing cost-effective drones for military use.

The one thing that links the work of Hnatok, Tuituinnyk, Oliinyk, Volnov, Alekseenko and Asanov, is drones. In 2024, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has seen cheaply-made FPVs become an essential component of war.  In the first few months of the invasion, Ukraine had the advantage in drone warfare, adapting cheap commercially available drones to be able to drop grenades. In response, Russia also started understanding the value of drones and began both producing its own and importing hundreds from Iran. 

While Russia focuses on the industrialisation of drone production, Ukraine’s kitchen hobbyists are now hoping to take the fight back to the invaders.