Cases 14:16 06 Jan 2023

Learn yourself and teach others: how first female drone pilot school works

The war in Ukraine, which has been going on since 2014, encourages finding new solutions to the problem of military support. In 2022, the first female drone pilot school started working in Ukraine. Rubryka found out how the selection and training occur and what problems the school solves.

What is the problem?

Lack of specialists 

The war in 2022-2023 is characterized by the use of new weapons and equipment. Among them are drones, which Ukrainians hear about almost every day. They can perform purely reconnaissance work and adjust artillery or self-destruct, causing significant damage to the target. But while receiving and purchasing drones from partners, the country faced another problem — the lack of pilots and female pilots who could fly them.


"Shahed" kamikaze drones. Photo by mil.in.ua

The founder of the "Female Pilots of Ukraine" school Valery Borovyk sees a great resource for solving this problem in women. Without receiving military training in schools and universities, girls often do not understand how they can be helpful to the army. Valery says:

"Some volunteer, some take up arms and go to the front, and some implement cultural projects. But some can adjust the artillery, help special units in surveillance and neutralization of the enemy."

школа пілотес дронів

Drone for training. Photo by Tatyana Kuznetsova

According to him, the problem of the lack of pilots for drones has existed since 2014. It was then that possible solutions began to be developed. And after February 24, 2022, the problem worsened even more. 

What is the solution?

"A chance to help in the war"

In 2014, Valery Borovyk was engaged in another project of his — the company for the production of drones, "First Contact." Once a friend from Britain approached one of his employees and asked if it was possible to find a drone pilot. The Englishman adopted the ideas of feminism and thought about how to create more jobs for women. With that, the men came to Valery. He did not find a female pilot, so he decided to "create" her himself.

Валерій Боровик, засновник та директор школи пілотес в Україні

Valery Borovyk, founder and director of the pilot school in Ukraine

"I turned to my friend, the president of Ukrainian Fashion Week, Volodymyr Nechypurk, and said that I was looking for a girl ready to study. And he recommended the administrator, Mira, whom we began to teach. We taught her, but the Briton with the idea of training female drone pilots disappeared. However, the idea remained with us, and that's how we realized we could teach girls and allow them to help in the war," says Valery Borovyk.

After looking at schools for drone operators, Valery realized that 95% of the students were men. This is how the realization of the idea to open a female drone pilot school in Ukraine began. Valery had instructors at his disposal who had free time and could start training female specialists. Six girls were recruited for the first stage, and four of them graduated and received certificates.

How does it work?

"Everyone has the same goal — to win and end the war"

Training takes place near Kyiv and is free of charge. Classes are designed for civilian girls and are divided into two categories. The first is training for those who later want to start teaching. In this case, the students take the first basic course, which lasts 2-3 weeks. After that, a woman can become an instructor at a pilot school.

The second option is a course for those women who plan to start a military career and go to the front. Here they additionally teach safety, self-defense, and ways to remove the drone from the influence of anti-drone stations.

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A girl controls a drone. Facebook photo by "Female Pilots of Ukraine"

"These are two options for the development of events. The educational process includes theory and practice. The theoretical part is read in the office. Here we have simulators, which is also important. And the practical classes themselves are flights, during which the students consolidate the acquired skills and learn to directly control the drone live," says Valery Borovyk.

Today, no additional permits from the Armed Forces or the National Guard are required to train the civilian population to operate drones. But for those who are going to the front line, additional training is organized. In addition, all school instructors are military personnel with relevant backgrounds.

When a girl comes to apply for training, not only her physical capabilities are considered, but also her motivation. For the pilot school, it is now important that the girls want to continue sharing their knowledge with the next students or join the army and use the acquired skills at the front.

Tanya Liskova-Havrylenko is a volunteer of the "Varta" community. One day, friends offered Tanya to learn how to fly a drone. The girl agreed immediately.

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Drone in action

"Until the first lesson, I did not understand how the ability to control drones could help boys and girls at the front. But after the first lesson, all doubts disappeared. After all, the main goal is not only the mastering of piloting skills but also the transfer of experience to future defenders, future pilots, and future instructors. None of us knows what skills will be necessary tomorrow. Therefore, such training is priceless," says Tanya Liskova-Gavrylenko. 

The girl says that the first lesson was an introduction, then it seemed that all this is impossible. But when Tanya first took the remote control and raised the drone above the ground, her hands trembled with excitement and delight.

Таня Ліскова-Гавриленко

Tanya Liskova-Gavrylenko receives a certificate of completion of studies

"We had two instructors — Mykyta and Mykhailo. In addition to explaining the principles of drone operation and the basics of piloting, they also shared their experience of piloting during combat missions. How to lift and turn the drone so that the enemy does not notice you, what are the basic rules, and what should be paid attention to so that the drone is not intercepted," Tanya Liskova-Gavrylenko shares.

In addition to piloting skills, the instructors talk about using different types of drones on the front line. One of the instructors of the pilot school, Mykyta Kosov, says that the girls are also taught to read a map, navigate the terrain, and find enemy drones. However, learning is not without certain problems.

"Aerial surveillance is important. Therefore, we teach how to find information and quickly transmit it. But learning can stop now. Due to missile attacks, closed skies during air raids, and weather conditions. That's why we try to combine girls' education both in classrooms and on training grounds. The main thing is to learn to know the area and work with a map," says Mykyta Kosov.

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Mykyta Kosov during class

Tetyana Kuznetsova works in the police. She and her colleagues also recently graduated from the pilot school. The girl says that she learned about the school precisely from Mykyta Kosov when he offered her and her colleagues the training. A group of four volunteers immediately gathered.

"Learning the practical part of piloting was not difficult. Circumstances in the city and air alarms were a bit of a hindrance, but we attended eight classes and gained knowledge and pleasure from the process. Each subsequent lesson was more interesting than the previous one," says Tetyana Kuznetsova.

Тетяна Кузнєцова

Tetyana Kuznetsova with a training drone

Now the girl needs to finish a theoretical course on a special platform, pass an exam and get a certificate of theoretical knowledge. Tetyana has already received a certificate of completion of the practical part. After that, there will be in-depth training, as a result of which Tatyana will be able to become an instructor herself and teach other girls.

Vitaly Borovyk says there are no specific criteria for recruiting female students, but the girls should have experience in various types of management. It can be computer games or a car. They also look at the above-mentioned motivation with which girls come to study. Now there is a shortage of instructors, so preference is given to those ready to teach their successors.

At the same time, the school's needs are not limited to instructors. Someone can get involved in maintaining a page on social networks, someone – in translations. The age limit is from 20 to 45 years, but if necessary, the school is ready to revise this rule.

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While training with the instructor. Photo of "Female Pilots of Ukraine" school

4-6 girls study in one group. And one instructor can simultaneously take 2-3 groups for parallel training.

The girls use the acquired knowledge in different ways. For example, after graduation, Tanya Liskova-Gavrylenko and her husband decided to buy a separate drone and help train new female pilots.

"Now I already have my own drone, although I still have minimal piloting experience and so far very few flying hours. I will continue to fly to improve my skills and start helping Nikita in training new female pilots. After all, this is exactly why we learned to fly — to help teach possible future ghosts of Kherson, Mykolaiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Crimea. Everyone has the same goal — to win and end the war," says Tanya Liskova-Gavrylenko.

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Source: Valery Borovyk, founder of the "Female Pilots of Ukraine" school

Will it definitely work?

Since the school has only just started its work, it is too early to talk about the results and achievements. But as of the end of November, the Female Pilots of Ukraine school has already graduated 20 girls with the specialty of piloting drones. 15 continue their studies. There are still about 150-200 applications from those willing to try their hand at piloting. Therefore, the school's task now is to train new instructors and find more drones for girls' practical classes.

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Photo by Valery Borovyk

In the future, the school plans to expand its capabilities, train new female instructors, and thus organize more study groups. Gradual growth will be able to fill the need for drone operators. Also, in some time, they plan to start training not only civilians but also military personnel. There was already the first graduation of 5-6 female police officers and one girl from the National Guard. At the end of November, SSU representatives were trained. The state project "Army of Drones" offers the school to expand training specifically for female military personnel.

Female Pilots of Ukraine are currently collecting funds to purchase a new batch of drones. You can help them by following the details:

Monobank: https://send.monobank.ua/jar/3ZtHNnLH6d

Card number: 5375 4112 0115 1508

If you want to become a drone pilot and go through training at the school, contact the school via e-mail [email protected] or Facebook.


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