A teenage Ukrainian drone pilot has become a national hero for helping the armed forces in the early days of the war. Andriy Pokrasa, 15, and his family were living on the outskirts of kyiv when Russia launched its invasion on February 24, moving rapidly toward the capital.

With few drone pilots available in the area and an urgent need for intelligence, the Territorial Defense accepted Andriy’s offer of help. Using a small commercial drone, Andriy and his father provided aerial photos showing the movements of Russian tanks, which were then passed on to the military to help adjust the Ukrainian artillery.

“My father and I took photos and coordinates, then the territorial defense located the place and we handed over the photos and locations to the Armed Forces,” he explains during a demonstration flight in the field near his home.

“With a tablet they reduced the coordinates more precisely and transmitted them by walkie-talkie to adjust the artillery. What I have just described happened very quickly, literally in 5-7 minutes.”

Andriy, who has been piloting drones for about a year, says he feared what might happen to his home if the Russians made their breakthrough. “This is my house. I didn’t want to see what was happening in the occupied territories happen to my house,” he says.

Andriy helped out for about ten days before the situation became too dangerous, and he and his mother could be evacuated to Poland. He returned to Ukraine after finishing his school year in the neighboring country. “It made me very happy to be able to contribute, to have been able to do something. Not just sit and wait.”

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