Ukraine tech startup turns to military drones

STORY: Eugene Nayshtetik and five of his co-workers shuttered their company developing medical and biotech startups to join Ukraine's defense forces days after Russia invaded.

Within weeks, their commanders agreed they should instead use their expertise on technical projects to help the war.

With the government’s blessing, Nayshtetik and his team of engineers moved to neighboring Poland where they raised initial funding from a Polish company to develop a new drone.

The Defender drone is now in the final stage of testing and slated for production within a month.

It is designed to withstand strong winds to enable surveillance in bad weather, can fly, take off and land vertically and also carry relatively big payloads, says Nayshtetik.

“It combines electronic warfare resistance, wind resistance and obviously it's dedicated to signal intelligence. And because of its offline capabilities, the radio horizon, the maximum range of signal intelligence is about 250 kilometres. So actually right now you don't have any one and a single drone with this combination of capabilities in the weight under 25 kilos."

The initial plan is to produce 200 units which will be delivered to the Ukrainian army and used on the battlefield.

Though Nayshtetik said they have also received inquiries from other European countries, the U.S. and Turkey.

Nayshtetik's company Radio Bird is one example of how some startups in Ukraine’s dynamic tech sector are switching to pursue military projects.

Before Russia’s invasion, Ukraine represented one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in central and eastern Europe.