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Update on FPV drone warfare (27-01-2024)

FPV drone usage, stats and analysis

As my previous article [1] and thread on X [2] highlighted, assessing the evolving impact of FPV drones is crucial to understanding their role in the dynamics of this war.  A data-based approach allows us to both estimate the future evolution of this technology and establish a more accurate picture of the capabilities of the opposing forces. To obtain the most reliable data currently available, I have utilized a database created by @AndrewPerpetua. This database contains not only information on FPV drone strikes, but also on a range of other types of attacks as well as a variety of other data on the continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Andrew and his team spend a considerable amount of time verifying and geolocating each strike. Andrew also updates his losses chart with data from satellite imagery, consistently providing an unbiased and as precise a database as possible, underscoring his reputation within this field. 

While it is true that the available data has likely not recorded every single strike that has taken place, this analysis will show that it certainly covers a significant portion of them. This data and the approach taken to its analysis aims to provide clarity from ambiguity, particularly from that generated by misinformation and disinformation. This enables us to establish a clearer understanding of the current situation and its continuing developments.

To illustrate the impact of the data collected by Andrew and the efforts made by myself to understand it, I provide an overview of the density contour map for drone usage by both sides. The red peaks in the ‘hot zones’ overlay the January 2023 frontline and serve as a testament to the value of the work done by Andrew and @Tochnyi.

We will begin by examining recent trends in FPV strikes on infantry, as illustrated in the first chart. Since my initial analysis, this situation has continued to evolve. Currently, the Russians lead in this area, having recently outpaced the Ukrainians in terms of numbers of strikes. From November 2023, the number of Russian strikes overtook Ukraine’s, at 564 to 495 respectively.  As of January 2024, with 8 days left in the month, they have thus far registered 655 strikes, 91 more than they did in December 2023 and more than Ukraine’s 533 strikes. This growing trend is alarming, indicative of an effective strategy to weaken the Ukrainian military by targeting its infantry at a time when Ukraine has reported a shortfall of manpower. As of today, the total count of FPV drone strikes stands at 1752 from Russia and 1779 from Ukraine, giving the Ukrainian a lead of 27 strikes to date.

In the previous article [1], I was not able to include an important chart about FPV strikes registered against defensive positions. Andrew has previously noted the concerning increase in FPV drone strikes by Russians against Ukrainian defensive positions; such as concrete bunkers, houses, treelines or trenches. As the chart below illustrates, the Russians are currently outperforming in this domain. Visual sources have recorded Russia’s use of FPV drones as demolition charges to destroy structures, causing the subsequent retreat of the defending force.

The second set of images depict an example of the type of attack this data draws from. An FPV drone strike hits a building at one of its weakest points, with the intention of causing it to collapse and render it unusable as a defensive position. This type of strike has been observed within numerous other sources and as such cannot be considered a random occurrence. Evidently, Russia’s strategy here is to actively destroy both potential or recognised defensive positions.

When assessing attacks on defensive positions, perhaps the most visceral ones are those observed on trench lines. Video sources increasingly show the lethality that trenches have become for Ukrainian infantry. While trenches once offered protection from shelling, the introduction of FPV drones, including the threat posed from drone-dropped munitions, has drastically changed the level of protection which trenches offer to infantry. FPV drones have proved highly maneuverable, as seen from this series of pictures of an FPV drone performing a complex maneuver before striking inside a trench. 

Although drones can have a significant impact on trench lines, a robust construction of trench fortifications can prevent many of them from causing damage. This can include providing overhead cover using metallic nets, surrounding obstacles such as trees, or constructing trenches with higher embankments to obstruct the drone’s line of sight and deter drones from entering the trench.

The overarching trend indicates a rise in attacks targeting defensive positions, at levels acute since December of 2023, is a concerning one for Ukraine. This particular rate of growth appears to be leveling off for now. This could be due to a reduction in the availability of drones for Ukraine, or, more plausibly given published manufacturing output, a reduction in Russian operations. As with all statistical trends, it is important to look at this recent data chronologically. Since October, there has been a decrease in Ukrainian FPV strikes on vehicles, in contrast to the trend seen within the FPV infantry strike data. If drones were indeed in short supply, it stands to reason that both data sets should present similar trends. 

The following chart illustrates that Ukraine maintains an advantageous position with regards to FPV strikes on vehicles. The reasons for this can be attributed to their defensive doctrine, aimed at degrading the enemy; contemporaneous with the Russian armed forces’s intensive attacks on Ukrainian positions using a large number of vehicles. 

Publicly noted inadequate quantities of Ukrainian EW [3] and deleterious tactical decision making has contributed towards a higher than expected toll on Ukraine. Despite these challenges, Ukrainian forces have consistently targeted Russian logistics vehicles in an attempt to wear down its enemy’s fragile logistic capabilities.

To gain a detailed view of the current situation on the battlefield with regards to these strikes, it is crucial to have a visual representation of the data on a day by day basis. The following data shows the use of FPV drones against infantry and utilizes both Russian and Ukrainian sources. Globally, this data indicates a level of relative parity for now; in marked contrast with the data for vehicles which shows a clear distinction in the numbers of strikes for each side in this war.

Upon analysis of the total number of drones used, it becomes apparent that the gap between Ukraine and Russia is decreasing. Nonetheless, Ukraine still continues to maintain a slight advantage. If this current rate of growth continues without change, it is likely that Russia will reach the same level of drone usage as Ukraine within two months. This highlights the necessity for Ukraine to increase its own manufacturing output and use more advanced systems to stay ahead in a technological race in which both sides had started at the same technological level.

Understanding FPV usage on the Heorhiivka-Maryinka front line

What makes the analysis of this data especially interesting is the fact that we have not only the video evidence but also the capabilities to geolocate and verify most of these strikes. This allows us to observe FPV drone activity from both sides and identify areas where these drones have been deployed in greater density. The data from January 2024 enables us to examine a notable ‘hot spot’ of Russian activity located around Marinka and on the left bank of the Dnipro river.

During January 2023, FPV drone activity in the Heorhiivka-Maryinka region was recorded at levels notably higher than anywhere else on the front line, particularly within two locations labeled on the map below as LOC-1 and LOC-2.

LOC-1 is a residential area developed around a water reservoir, located just outside Marinka. The Russians seem to have been focusing on a specific residential area situated in the northern part of the reservoir. This is consistent with their prior use of FPV drone technology to survey houses and defensive positions. The area is still under Ukrainian control (26-01-2024) despite being now effectively on the so called zero-line [4].

LOC-2 appears to be a Ukrainian position with several large buildings and trenches indicating their consolidated presence in the area. However, the precision of FPV strikes has made such positions more vulnerable and costly to maintain. It is worth noting that despite this, the area remains under firm Ukrainian control [5], but practically on the zero line as LOC-1.


In analyzing the utilization of FPV drones in the ongoing Ukrainian-Russian conflict, this analysis reveals a compelling narrative that underscores the strategic advantage held by the Ukrainian Forces. As of the latest available data until the 23rd of January 2024, the Ukrainian forces have consistently demonstrated a superior deployment of FPV drones.

The discernible trend in monthly FPV drone usage illustrates a noteworthy lead for the Ukrainian Forces, prompting reflection on the factors contributing to their sustained edge over their Russian counterparts. While it is evident that the Russian forces are progressively increasing their deployment of FPV drones, a discernible gap persists. 

The data, however, signal a potential inflection point where both armies might reach a plateau in their FPV drone utilization. This could signify a culmination of the linear growth, potentially influenced by constraints in drone availability, challenging weather conditions, or the exigencies of the frontline situation. The convergence of these factors raises the prospect of a nuanced equilibrium in FPV drone deployment.

Contrary to preconceived notions of absolute dominance in drone warfare, the empirical evidence suggests that the Russian military’s perceived hegemony in this domain is yet to materialize. The persistent lead maintained by the Ukrainian Forces dispel the myth of an unassailable Russian advantage .

In conclusion, the Ukrainian Forces through consistent and measured deployment of FPV drones, maintains an observable advantage, possibly also in employment and effective use of the capability. As the conflict progresses, the confluence of various factors may influence the trajectory of this advantage.