British company Evolve Dynamics develops jamming-resistant Drones for Ukraine

According to Reuters news agency, in a discreet warehouse in southern England, engineers from Evolve Dynamics are working on promising technology designed to keep Ukrainian reconnaissance drones operational even in the face of Russian electronic jamming efforts. This project is part of an international endeavor to support Ukraine's drone program, as the country seeks a technological edge against a larger and better-equipped foe. Companies from various countries have already provided Ukraine with a range of drones and components. Some, like Evolve Dynamics, are also focusing on technological advancements to counter Russia's electronic warfare (EW) capabilities.
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The new Sky Mantis 2, a flagship product from British company Evolve Dynamics (Picture source: Evolve Dynamics)

By developing alternative algorithms for radio communication, Evolve Dynamics aims to challenge Russia's attempts to jam surveillance drone signals, thus rendering them ineffective. The conflict has seen an escalation in the use of electronic warfare systems capable of disrupting frequencies that allow pilots to control their drones, leading to crashes or targeting errors. Mike Dewhirst, CEO of Evolve Dynamics, shared that the company's Sky Mantis drones have received 85 updates over the past two and a half years, describing the situation as a "constant ping-pong game" between adversaries.

Since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022, the United Kingdom, a steadfast ally of Kyiv, has emerged as the primary supplier of drones to Ukraine and is working with Latvia to lead a European coalition aimed at boosting production. Other allies, including Sweden, the Netherlands, and Norway, have also supplied Ukraine with combat drones. In response, Ukraine has encouraged the development of private military startups to innovate and strengthen its national industry as the conflict enters its third year.

Today, Ukraine boasts around 200 drone manufacturers, and the Ministry of Strategic Industries has discussed the possibility of producing up to two million drones this year. Supported by Evolve Dynamics, whose reconnaissance drones monitor enemy movements, Ukrainian military units directly receive parts and software updates from the company, allowing them to make necessary modifications themselves.

The direct collaboration between defense companies and military personnel on the ground could become a more common feature of warfare, given the rapid pace of technological innovation. This trend could have implications for everything from procurement to training. Nick Reynolds, a researcher in land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a UK-based defense think tank, noted the potentially short battlefield learning cycle, which could be as brief as six weeks.

Last month, a Ukrainian military unit requested Evolve Dynamics to modify its technology for increased pilot safety. The company's team, working at a UK site adorned with Ukrainian flags and soldiers' thank-you messages, figured out how to separate a drone's radio box from its control, allowing the military unit to implement the change in less than 24 hours.

Mike Dewhirst, who visits Ukraine monthly, decided to fund the modification after learning the soldiers would have paid out of pocket. Ukrainian drone units often finance their equipment through private means or crowdfunding. Dewhirst founded Evolve Dynamics in 2014 while working with software engineers in Kyiv for a digital marketing startup.

With about 100 Sky Mantis surveillance drones currently operational in Ukraine, Evolve Dynamics ranks among the top five to ten British drone suppliers to the country. The UK has pledged to spend £325 million ($416 million) to send 10,000 drones to Ukraine this year, and Evolve Dynamics hopes to secure a larger share of this market. The privately owned company has supplied equipment to the British Royal Navy, certain police forces, and global companies in the oil, gas, and wind sectors.

Defense News April 2024