Cardboard Carriers in Peace and War

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Materials, SAS, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Recent news items herald the incredible return on investment the Ukrainian army is getting from its use of small cardboard aircraft.  These literally boxy bombers are doing in Russian aircraft and possibly tanks with surprising capability.   They may have had an initial inspiration in 2017.

Everfly, Otherlab, and Star Simpson

At the 2017 Sustainable Aviation Symposium in San Francisco, Star Simpson of Everfly, an affiliate of Otherlab, showed off a cardboard drone intended for humanitarian missions.

Read about the craft, its many acronym-related affiliations, and its missions here.

Ukrainians and Their Cardboard Air Force

On a less humane, but equally important mission, an Australian version of the “pizza-box” technology is wreaking havoc on the Russian Air Force and even Russian tanks.

The Sydney (Australia) Daily Herald reported on August 29, “Australian-made cardboard drones have been reportedly used to help bomb a Russian airfield as the Ukrainian military steps up its attacks on Russian territory.”

According to the report, Sypaq drones struck a Russian airfield at Kursk, 170 kilometers (105 miles) inside the border.  Up to five Russian aircraft may have been destroyed.  One source doubted the electrically-powered craft could have flown that distance if launched in Ukraine.

The Herald added, “Former Australian general Mick Ryan, who has visited Ukraine several times since the war began, said it was ‘great’ that Australian technology was being used in such missions.

Sypaq drone can be hand launched, or flung from a rail launcher. Note the elastic band fastened to the ground and just disengaging from drone

“’We’re providing equipment to Ukraine to help them defend themselves,’ he said. ‘If they want to use it in Ukraine or Russia, it’s up to them.’”  Some report the cardboard craft have even been used to attack Russian tanks, but your editor cannot find corroboration for that.

Newsweek reports that, “SYPAQ signed a $700,000 deal with the Australian government in March to produce its Corvo drone system for supply to Ukraine.”  Although described as a “cardboard plane,” some reports indicated the craft are made from waxed foamboard.

Economical Warfare

Whatever the material, the drones, even loaded with military specification electronics, are budget bombers, costing by some estimates $3,500 to $5,000 each.  If they destroy or cripple a multi-million dollar (or ruble) opponent, the return on investment is substantial.

Daily Mail provides overview of drone as shipped to Ukraine and in flight

Whether used for humane or destructive purposes, such disposable aircraft are perhaps a harbinger of future applications for good or ill.

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