In June, Ukrainian army Lt. Sasha Bak finally got his hands on a drone.
He had been fighting in eastern Ukraine since March, and it was the first time he was able to get real-time imagery of the Russian-backed separatists and their trenches a little more than a half-mile away.
The aircraft? A small quadcopter more common in toy stores than combat zones, with a GoPro camera strapped to its underside. The drone flew one mission before its owner, a foreign volunteer, left with it.
Bak’s shortage of drones is just one piece of the many technological shortcomings he faces. His unit — the 7th Company of the 93rd Brigade — talks primarily on unsecure radios or field telephones left over from the Cold War that are frequently disabled when artillery rounds sever the wires that connect them. With no secure way to transmit data to other units, important messages such as company rosters and battlefield reports are delivered by hand.