Driving deep into the forest, the hush between the towering pine trees and the clear blue skies was splintered every few seconds by the sound of distant explosions from the frontline battles for eastern Ukraine.
Guiding us through the woodland on foot, Ukrainian soldiers eventually brought us to a clearing where they showed us the wreckage of a weaponized drone which they said they shot down with their AK-47 automatic weapons over the weekend.
The drone was a Mugin-5, a commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made by a Chinese manufacturer based in the port city of Xiamen, on China’s eastern coast.
Some tech bloggers say the machines are known as “Alibaba drones” as they have been available for sale for up to $15,000 on Chinese marketplace websites including Alibaba and Taobao.
Mugin Limited confirmed to CNN that it was their airframe, calling the incident “deeply unfortunate.”
It’s the latest example of a civilian drone being retrofitted and weaponized since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a sign of the rapidly shifting patterns of warfare.
“Along the front lines, basically all the time we’re conducting aerial reconnaissance,” said Maksim, a 35-year-old territorial defense fighter who only wanted to go by his first name.