ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — German drone maker Quantum Systems has recorded a three-fold increase in aircraft deliveries to Ukraine, with demand driven by the need of Kyiv’s forces to find the enemy after dark, according to company officials.

The Munich-based vendor made the first delivery of long-range Vector surveillance drones to Ukraine in 2022, starting with roughly 40 systems.

“This was around the time when Russian troops were trying to cross rivers and bodies of water to advance into Ukraine and beginning to make wider-use of jamming,” Sven Kruck, chief sales officer at Quantum Systems, told Defense News in a recent virtual interview while on a trip to Kyiv.

“The Vector had his baptism of fire during the famous battle of Siverskyi Donets in May 2022, where it was capable of directing fire through a thick layer of smoke in an electronic-warfare environment,” Matthias Lehna, business development manager at Quantum, added.

After that, fresh orders, paid for by the German government, kept coming: one last January, for 105 drones, and another in May, for a third batch of 300 Vectors.

The Vector is a mid-range reconnaissance drone with an endurance of three hours that can reach a speed of 72km per hour. A mock-up was on display here at the UMEX 2024 exhibition that runs Jan. 23-25.

“From December 2022 to January 2023, we started seeing a major increase in Russian jamming attempts, so we established a Signal channel for Ukrainian users, which currently has 200 operators in it where they exchange and provide direct feedback on what they need,” Kruck said, referring to the messenger app that advertises itself as security conscious.

Executives declined to identify which elements of the Ukrainian military operate the drones, citing operational security, saying only that the units are well known in the Ukrainian Special Forces community for their night-time capabilities.

As operators were sharing lessons learned, the vendor made improvements along three lines of effort, Kruck said: software updates, increased battery life by one hour, and hardware changes.

The latter have helped to stabilize the drones’ vertical-take-off-and-landing capabilities, enabling them to land safely in various conditions.

“We are also working on enhancing the AI capabilities of the Vector so it can better connect and integrate to battle management systems and strike drones as well as working on more sensors and radar elements so they can better detect artillery fire,” Kruck said.

Quantum Systems already has a training and logistics facility in Ukraine, where 200 operators so far have been trained with the help of 15 Ukrainian trainers. The company has plans to increase the number of local trainers to 40 in 2024.

Executives now want to take the next step, finalizing agreements to create a spare parts plant in Ukraine. The local presence would accelerate maintenance for the Vector drones and speed up the development cycle for new features, according to the company.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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