The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia has seen significant drone use on both sides. Ukraine has made extensive use of drones, from the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 to hobbyist drones supporting civil resistance. Although evidence of Russian drone use early in the conflict was limited, Russia appears to have stepped up its efforts, employing systems like the Orlan-10 and the KUB-BLA loitering munition. Drones have been used in a wide variety of roles from carrying out strikes to guiding artillery and recording video that feeds directly into information operations.
Social media, smartphones, and drones have helped create a virtual panopticon in the Ukraine conflict. The Ukrainian military, Ukrainian civilians, and observers around the world have built unprecedented awareness of the day-to-day conflict, capturing stories of horror and heroism. The torrent of information helps in three ways. First, the Ukrainian military monitors Russian troop movements and uses information to guide strikes. Second, there is a morale component, whereby Ukrainian military and civilians may be encouraged about the war effort. Third, the awareness provides unprecedented insight, which no doubt encourages global allies to provide diplomatic, economic, and military support.
The role drones play within the panopticon is twofold, expanding the range of sight and strengthening propaganda efforts. Even commercial drones can range miles away from the operator, providing a much broader field of view than that of a person alone. Drone also capture live images and video of events on the battlefield, which can help demonstrate the success of the Ukrainian military. The Ukrainian government encouraged this with calls for civilians to donate their drones to the war effort.