Feb. 17, 2015 | By Alec

Lab director Ivan Dovgal holding one of the military-purpose 3D printed drones. Image: Kyiv Post/Anastasia Viasova

We don't need to remind anyone that drones and 3D printing technology are an excellent combination. Just look at all the interesting 3D print-it-yourself quadcopter drones we've seen in recent months. While most of these 3D printed fan-made quadcopter drones have been made with strictly peaceful applications in mind, drones are being increasingly used for military purposes all over the world. And it looks like they could become a common sight in the skies above eastern Ukraine as well.

While an official ceasefire has been signed in Belarus last week, thanks to the mediation of the EU, few people are doubting that fighting will soon break out again in the east of Ukraine. Since the stealth invasion of eastern Ukraine by Russian forces in February 2014, fighting has been going on almost non-stop. An earlier ceasefire signed in September 2014 changed little, and fighting has also continued despite the signing of last week’s new ceasefire. Hours before it took effect, Russian-back forced mounted a considerable offensive, so no end seems to be in sight at all.

It’s therefore unsurprising that the Ukrainian military hasn’t done anything to halt an ongoing project at the Step IT Academy in Kiev, which is seeking to produce as much plastic AEVs (or drones) as possible. These are all 3D printed with a military purpose at the front, specifically observation. To date, at least 30 drones have been deployed at the front, all of which have been paid for by volunteers.

These military-purpose drones are capable of capturing images from a maximum distance of 2.5 kilometers (or one and a half miles), and can fly for up to 20 minutes at a time. One of the manufacturers from the Step IT Academy, Dmytro Franchuk, has even travelled to the front to train soldiers to use these 3D printed drones, which takes about a week to learn. "As I was the only developer of drones in the lab, I also had to go to the war front to teach soldiers how to work with them. It took time I could use for production," Franchuk told reporters of the Kyiv Post.

When looking at US-built drones used in the Middle East, you might wonder why the Ukrainians are 3D printing theirs. Well, the answer is simply: money. And advanced drone costs approximately $30,000 to produce, while 3D printed alternatives cost only about $4,200. As the lab’s director, Ivan Dovgal, explained, they have to resort to 3D printing as the government simply lacks the funds to produce military grade alternatives. He blames bureaucracy and lack of cash in the budget.

Step IT Academy is a robotics school which seeks to teach students about practical applications of engineering knowledge. Dovgal told reporters that they initially sought to produce household robots. "The very moment I heard about smart home solutions, I wanted to have a co-working space to work on them myself and let our students create technologies for smart heating, signalling, electronics' controlling and other aspects of smart home," Dovgal says. 3D printers quickly became an integrated part of this, and the lab currently has three 3D printers in operation.

But, as is the case with so many things in Ukrainian life, the necessities of war have even taken over these 3D printers. 



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Romeo wrote at 2/24/2015 7:20:39 PM:

Ukrainian fascists!

Tim.Yoshi wrote at 2/20/2015 5:22:03 PM:

Yeger, oh comme on. Do you really think that ANY militarist will be eager to kill civilian, or especially children and senior? Oh, and of course he/she will use high tech equipment to do that. Kind of manhunt safari, huh? That's stupid. Unbelievable. More typical to sick Russian propaganda trying to convenience people that we, here in Ukraine are monsters and there is reasons to hate us. Of course drones are used to seek for heavy artillery, troops and so on. But I can't get really what significant part of it could be 3dPrinted? Frame? Well it will cost you 10-20 bucks if ordered directly from China. This will be much sturdier and reliable then 3dPrinted one. What else? Housing for electronics? Maybe.

H. Scholten wrote at 2/18/2015 7:27:24 AM:

This is not technical news, but pure political propaganda.

yru wrote at 2/17/2015 8:41:26 PM:

Yeger, I was under impression the Ukraine is fighting against aggressor, so it's more a defensive/protective role for the drone. If you consider it's most probably a reconn device it should actually prevent civilian casualties

El. wrote at 2/17/2015 4:11:06 PM:

@Yeger Well, that's at least unwise to claim that ukrainian army will do any harm to ukrainian citizens. The problem is that temporary occupied territories are full of foreign troops, mainly russian citizens. By the international and ukrainian law this is an act of invasion and should be dealt with the appropriate way. That's why the drones are needed - to seek the russian forces, their heavy armament and pro-russian mercenaries who are terrorozing and killing peaceful local people. Drones help to prevent collateral damage.

Yeger wrote at 2/17/2015 10:46:56 AM:

An entrepreneur, holding a DIY Drone which will in turn help out kill more innocent people and exterminate the remainder of the children and old men, fighting for their homes. Very nice. Just goes to show that you must always be careful to whom you sell your tech.

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