Technology

Million-Drone Effort for Ukraine Is Moving Forward, Latvia Says

A Ukrainian drone operator after a surveillance flight near Bakhmut. Photographer: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images (Paula Bronstein/Photographer: Paula Bronstein/Ge)

(Bloomberg) -- An initiative to deliver a million drones to Ukraine by next February is moving ahead as contributions from allies pile up, Latvia’s defense chief said. 

Defense Minister Andris Spruds said on Thursday the effort spearheaded by the Baltic nation and the UK has secured commitments from a “number of countries” amounting to more than €550 million ($598 million). 

“It’s not the end of the process, additional funding is being announced almost on a weekly basis,” Spruds said in an interview on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington. 

The group of about 15 countries aims to supply the drones by the three-year mark of the invasion, which began on Feb. 24, 2022. Low-cost drones have become a crucial weapon in Ukraine’s wartime toolkit to hit Russian infantry, armor and artillery positions. They’ve also been used to target naval assets in the Black Sea.  

The coalition signed an agreement Wednesday for a fund and plans to acquire low-cost first-person-view and reconnaissance drones, as well as those using artificial-intelligence capability, the ministry said. 

“There is ambition to provide all the technologies that Ukraine needs,” Spruds said. 

Leaders at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization gathering promised five long-range air-defense systems for Ukraine in a show of support, even as they resisted offering the country a path toward membership and fresh assessments indicate the conflict with Russia is headed toward indefinite stalemate.

Spruds has said Latvia wants to establish a “drone army” as part of efforts to boost production of the local defense industry and strengthen military capabilities in the Baltic region. The government will invest some €20 million this year to develop the project, Spruds said in May.

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