At just 15 years old, Ukrainian drone pilot Andrii Pokrasa found himself tested by a real war game—a very far cry from the video-game battles typically played by teens—when he helped stop a Russian convoy from storming into Kyiv during the early days of the invasion of his country.
Although he had saved up to purchase his first drone only last summer, Pokrasa had enough flying experience to pilot reconnaissance missions over Russian troops and relay the data to Ukrainian artillery units to target the attack force.
As a result of his actions, the teen is credited with saving the capital city in late February.
“He’s a real hero," stated commander Yurii Kasjanov of Ukraine’s unmanned recon unit to Canada's Global News. "He is a hero of Ukraine. He was the only one who was experienced with drones in that region.”
"Ukraine’s civil defense provided us information where approximately the Russian column could be," explained Pokrasa. "Our goal was to find the exact coordinates and provide the coordinates to the soldiers. It was one of the biggest columns that was moving on the Zhytomyr road, and we managed to find it, because one of the trucks turned on its lights for a long time."
After Pokrasa's neighbors expressed fears that his assistance would make their homes targets for the Russian military, he and his father decided to launch his drone at night from a nearby field.
His reward for saving Kyiv? Another drone—albeit a long-range model given to him by the Ukrainian army.
Sadly, Pokrasa eventually had to flee Ukraine. He is currently continuing his ninth-grade studies in Poland, where he has been living with his mother.