MILAN — Ukrainian officials are receiving an increasing amount of applications from robotics vendors who want their systems tested for utility in combat, a sign that unmanned ground capabilities are growing in importance amid the relative stalemate along the front line with Russia.

Officials at Brave1, a government defense-technology hub tasked with getting new capabilities field-ready, announced that more than 50 ground robotic systems and more 140 unmanned ground vehicles have been submitted for evaluation.

“Hundreds of them will be procured through United24 to strengthen the Ukrainian army on the battlefield in a few months – UGVs will become the next game changer in this war, [like] drones already have,” a March 12 Brave1 statement circulated on the organization’s social media channels said. United24 is Ukrainian government-run platform for collecting donations for the embattled country.

In the last year, an increasing number of these types of platforms have emerged on the battlefield, being used and tested for a widening array of missions. Ukrainian social media channels recently published footage reportedly showing a UGV capable of laying six anti-tank mines at a time.

In pictures posted online by Brave1, a variety of small-scale tracked and wheeled ground robots are seen on the move, armed with guns, evacuating injured dummies and equipped with what appears to be mine-detection equipment.

A trend emerging in Ukrainian unmanned robots is that the majority are rather small and lighter than many others offered on the international market.

“Using high-tech solutions ahead of the enemy in terms of efficiency, innovation and price gives Ukraine an advantage on the battlefield – such hardware and software products are asymmetric responses capable of changing the configuration in a confrontation with the overwhelming resources of the enemy,” Nataliia Kushnerska, project lead at Brave1 told Defense News in an email statement.

“Ukraine has become a global defense tech hub, and the growth of this sector will play a critical role in Ukrainian defense policy for decades to come,” she added.

A substantial number of munitions and explosives used by Russian and Ukrainian troops remain unexploded, posing a threat to soldiers and civilians. According to some estimates, approximately 174,000 square kilometers of Ukraine was estimated to be contaminated with landmines as of April 2023.

Part of the push to accelerate the development of UGVs has been the desire to send robots for the dangerous job of removing live munitions left on the battlefield.

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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