By Max Hunder
KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine will be able to conduct more drone attacks on Russian warships, a Ukrainian minister who has played a key role in building the country's drone industry told Reuters after a recent series of sea raids.
“There will be more drones, more attacks, and fewer Russian ships. That’s for sure,” Digital Transformation minister Mykhailo Fedorov said in an interview on Friday, answering a question about recent attacks near Crimea.
This week, Ukraine has made several attacks using sea drones and missiles on Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet in and around the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.
In a sign of growing confidence, Ukraine has recently claimed responsibility for attacks on Crimea, having previously not directly confirmed involvement in blasts at military targets there.
Russia has acknowledged a Ukrainian missile attack that damaged a warship and a submarine this week, but says it has repelled all sea drone attacks.
On Thursday, Fedorov posted a grainy video on social media that appeared to be filmed from a vessel heading towards a much larger warship, followed by an explosion.
He said at the time that attack was the work of Ukrainian systems paid for by funds from a government-run crowdfunding platform that raises money for equipment including drones.
Fedorov also said Ukraine’s aerial drone production had increased by over 100 times in 2023 from last year.
“I think it’ll be an increase of around 120 to 140 times by the end of this year, if you compare it to the previous one.”
According to the minister, Ukraine is testing AI systems that can locate targets several kilometres away and guide drones to them even if external communications are disrupted by electronic warfare measures.
“We need AI, for instance the technology for finding targets, just like how the Lancet (a Russian drone) operates, so that a target can be located under electronic warfare and destroyed.”
“At the moment it's all at the testing stage, but some drones we are buying use AI to recognise targets. In a forest, it can detect a target and recognise whether it's a person, tank, or a certain vehicle. These technologies are being used actively.”
(This story has been refiled to clarify that drones are for strikes on warships in the headline and paragraph 1)
(Reporting by Max Hunder; Editing by Mark Potter)