Spot report by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM): SMM follows up on its lost long-range unmanned aerial vehicle

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On 27 and 28 October, the SMM followed up on its lost long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The UAV had gone missing on 27 October at night while it was flying over an area south-east of Nyzhnokrynske (non-government-controlled, 66km east of Donetsk) following a convoy of seven trucks near the border with the Russian Federation (see SMM Spot Report 27 October 2018).

The UAV had taken off at approximately 22:03 on 26 October from its launch site at Stepanivka (government-controlled, 54km north of Donetsk). At 01:18 on 27 October, the UAV had spotted a surface-to-air missile system (9K33 Osa) east of Nyzhnokrynske. At 01:53, the SMM had suddenly lost communication with the UAV near the same location, about 30 seconds after the UAV’s flight path had become unstable. During these 30 seconds, the UAV lost its GPS signal, abruptly increased altitude by about 30 feet for a very brief moment and deviated from its heading, after which it immediately began tumbling down, rapidly losing altitude at a rate of approximately 4,800 feet per minute. At the same time, sudden changes in the UAV’s engine speed and flight controls input readings were recorded.

Prior to the loss of communication, the UAV had been flying in stable flight at an altitude of approximately 7,000 feet. The weather conditions were good with clear skies. All recorded flight parameters were normal and the UAV camera was recording.

According to a preliminary technical assessment, the most likely cause of the incident was an impact to the UAV which threw it off its flight path and disrupted the anti-jamming system and the payload power supply, and likely caused the UAV to crash. During its tumbling descent, before the communication was lost, additional systems of the UAV showed signs of failure.

On 27 and 28 October, the SMM pursued recovery efforts at presumed crash sites near Nyzhnokrynske close to the border. On 27 October, seven mini-UAV flights were conducted over an area south of Nyzhnokrynske and Serhiieve-Krynka (non-government-controlled, 69km east of Donetsk). The UAVs spotted multiple wheel tracks in a field about halfway between the aforementioned settlements. The SMM was not able to assess whether the tracks were fresh. Eight people in Nyzhnokrynske separately told the SMM that they had heard an explosion in a southerly direction between 01:45-02:00 on 27 October. On 28 October, the Mission conducted three mini-UAV flights approximately 500m east of the area it had examined the day before. To date, the SMM has not been able to locate any debris of its UAV.

The SMM followed all the established pre-flight notification procedures and implemented all the relevant loss of long-range UAV protocols after communication and control of the UAV was no longer possible. The Mission has restarted long-range UAV operations following the required suspension period.

The Mission will continue to follow up.


Dragana Nikolic-Solomon
Chief of Press and Public Information Unit
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
26 Turhenievska Street
01054 Kyiv
Office: +380 44 392 08 55
Mobile: +380 95 291 99 18

Iryna Korobko
National Media Officer
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
26 Turhenievska Street
01054 Kyiv
Office: +380 44 392 09 84
Mobile: +380 67 235 38 16