May 30, 2023

How not to innovate: Russia plays catch-up to Ukraine on drones

Source: Breaking Defense

Journalist: Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

Meanwhile, Russia has struggled to get out of its own way, with grass-roots civilian groups fighting to get imported Chinese quadcopters past the Soviet-style bureaucracy to the troops in the field, while only Iran is willing to sell Moscow military-grade models. Drone warfare has become a microcosm of the military, economic, and cultural differences between the warring sides.

“Three important things happened,” said Samuel Bendett, a CNA Russia expert who co-authored the report, told Breaking Defense in an email:

  1. “The absolutely rapid and explosive growth of commercial drone technology makes it cheap, easy and affordable to acquire commercial-type quadcopters and FPV [First-Person View] drones in very large numbers.
  2. “The Russian military’s acquisition cycle and its research and development cycle have not caught up with this commercial technology. Simply put, the Russian MOD [Ministry of Defense] remains a very large, bureaucratic, top-heavy and overburdened apparatus that takes a long while to move in the right direction.
  3. “The unprecedented degree of openness on social media like Telegram has enabled an open and candid discourse on how the Russian military conducted this invasion. The whole story of why volunteer organizations stepped up to assist so quickly, and why the MOD has not officially interfered with them, is something we will be studying for years.”

Read the full story and more from Breaking Defense.


  • Samuel Bendett

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Technology and National Security Program

    Samuel Bendett is an Adviser with CNA Strategy, Policy, Plans and Programs Center (SP3), where he is a member of the Russia Studies Program. His work involves research on the ...