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