Ukraine to offer $1 million reward at anti-drone hackathon

 An “Anti-Shahed Drone Hackathon” will be held for Ukrainian teams this week-end (June 24-25). The initiative was announced by the ministry of Digital Transformation earlier this month as part of the ‘Drone Army’ project. 

The authorities expect to bring together talented developers, engineers, cyberspecialists and volunteers in order to create advanced systems and technologies for detecting, tracking and destroying enemy drones.

“During the hackathon, you will be able to present ideas to representatives of the Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine. If your product proves its effectiveness, and the Defense Forces confirm that this kind of development is necessary here and now, you will receive a $1 million contract to implement or scale the development [of solutions] which will destroy enemy drones in the Ukrainian sky,” the organizers announced. 

As a result of the first edition of the hackathon, “six out of 30 formed teams that presented solutions became winners. In half a year, they turned their ideas into a product that was demonstrated at the training ground.”

According to information cited by Wikipedia, the Shahed 129, also known as S129, is “an Iranian single-engine medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) designed by Shahed Aviation Industries for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).” This drone is capable of “combat and reconnaissance missions” with an endurance of 24 hours. It is “similar in size, shape and role to the American MQ-1 Predator“ 

These drones have been allegedly upgraded and used by the Russian army under the name “Geranium-2” in its war operations against Ukraine — even though Iran has denied having supplied them to Russia. One of the first appearances of these engines took place in September 2022 when a Shahed or Geranium was shot down near Kupiansk, in the Kharkiv region. Then, Kyiv officials blamed a Shahed drone for causing damage near the Ukrainian capital.

These drones are “easy to fight because they are audible from miles away and move slowly,” said Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetsky, a Ukrainian defense attaché in the USA, in October 2022. “Ukrainian SA-8 missile launchers and self-propelled Shilka anti-aircraft guns are “very effective” against the relatively crude Iranian-made weapons,” he added.

However, according to other sources cited by Wikipedia, these small-sized drones are slow and fly low, making their detection by Ukrainian MiG-29 radar more difficult. What’s more, “Ukrainian aircraft can only intercept these drones using their 30mm cannon,” since R-73 missiles “do not work in cloud cover.” 

Update June 26: Read here about the results of the hackathon.

Topics: Events & contests, Military tech, Policy making
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