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800 drones on way to Ukraine for surveillance, Canada says

Drones will cost more than $95 million and are part of a previously-announced $500 million for Ukraine
The Liberal government will dispatch more than 800 drones to Ukraine, with delivery expected to begin this spring. A soldier of Ukraine’s 3rd Separate Assault Brigade launches a drone near Bakhmut, the site of fierce battles with the Russian forces in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Libkos

The Liberal government will dispatch more than 800 drones to Ukraine starting as early as this spring.

Defence Minister Bill Blair said at a press conference in Toronto that Ukraine had made “extraordinary progress” in the use of drone technologies over the past two years.

“They’ve told us very clearly they need many more drones,” he said Monday.

The SkyRanger R70 multi-mission Unmanned Aerial Systems are manufactured by Teledyne in Waterloo, Ont.

Blair said this “particular device brings a utility that I think significantly enhances their capabilities, particularly with its ability at some altitude to detect, and to gather information that can be very useful as they defend their country.”

The government said in a press release the drones are important for surveillance and intelligence gathering, and can also be used to move supplies, including munitions, weighing up to 3.5 kilograms. The drones help operators to recognize heat sources, humans and vehicles from far away, even in the dark or in poor weather, it added.

They will cost more than $95 million and are part of a previously-announced $500 million in military help for Ukraine.

Anne Bulik, Teledyne FLIR’s vice-president of unmanned systems North America said at the press conference the company has already started production on the units. “I’m expecting late March, early April would be the timeline that we will be able to deliver on,” she said.

The announcement comes days ahead of the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Canada previously donated 100 high-resolution drone cameras to Ukraine, and in the past two years has pledged $2.4 billion in military assistance.

At Monday’s press conference, Blair also indicated Canada is working on sending more ammunition to Ukraine.

He said Canada has done what it can, even “drawing down upon the stocks of our Canadian Armed Forces.”

Western countries agree more needs to be done to boost production, he said.

“I’m very hopeful that we’ll have more to say in the not too distant future about how we’re investing in increased Canadian production of munitions that will help both Ukraine and to reconstitute, as required, the Canadian Armed Forces. But those things take time.”

In the meantime, Blair said Canada has entered into an agreement with the Czech Republic that could result in Canada “acquiring munitions that they currently have in their possession,” to make them available to Ukraine while domestic production ramps up.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress issued a statement welcoming the announcement and saying Ukraine needs more weapons.

“As Ukraine courageously battles against Russia’s genocidal onslaught, substantially increasing the ammunition and weapons we are providing the Ukrainian Armed Forces is a matter of urgency,” president Alexandra Chyczij said.