Leading UAV developers DraganFly, Quantum-Systems, AeroVironment, and Teledyne Flir are among the companies that have provided cutting-edge aerial craft to Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion, but Australian firm SYPAQ Systems is distinguishing itself in that supportive effort by providing Kyiv with drones made of cardboard.
Melbourne-based SYPAQ announced its move to supply an undisclosed number of its Corvo drones to Ukraine as part of Australia’s backing of Kyiv’s defense against Russian attacking forces. Developed as what the company calls a Precision Payload Delivery System (PPDS), Corvo UAVs are almost entirely constructed of cardboard. They are delivered several at a time in flatpacks, and quickly assembled using basic materials like tape, glue, and – going by a SYPAQ photo accompanying its announcement – either thick string or rubber bands holding the wings and body together.
Indeed, the techiest tool required to put the craft together is reportedly a money wrench to mount the front-end motor and propeller. Be that as it may, that simplified version of an IKEA bookshelf slap-together process contrasts with the craft’s geek bona fides when in operation.
Read: Ukraine reportedly assembles half of its 1,000 FPV drone fleet for attacking Russian targets [Video]
SYPAQ says the cardboard drone will allow Ukraine’s pilots to fly it on missions of up to 120 kilometers, using easily pre-programmed routes for automated operation that frees up would-be pilots for other tasks until the UAV returns. Onboard tech also permits the craft to figure out where it is and continue its assigned trajectory in GPS-denied areas, or amid serious Russian communication jamming.
Corvo, SYPAQ notes, will offer Ukraine forces a “low cost, expendable drone for the delivery of supplies and equipment into areas traditional logistics capabilities cannot reach.” But it adds that working on feedback provided by Ukrainian operators, the UAV “has also been adapted for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions” using various kinds of specialized sensor payloads.
Those added capacities logically suggest SYPAQ’s pizza box drones can gather actionable information on Russian positions and preparations up to 60 kilometers away, then return with precise detail for Ukraine troops to use in preventive or pro-active operations.
Officials in Ukraine have acknowledged the drone can also be modified to drop munitions – and have already been used that way against enemy targets.
Should the UAVs be spotted and neutralized, all that’s lost is the couple or three thousand bucks they reportedly cost (the company does not communicate its prices), as well as onboard sensors – far less expensive than the destruction of adapted enterprise, public safety, or military-grade craft normally deployed.
Read: AeroVironment donates 100+ Quantrix Recon drones to Ukraine
The Corvo support comes as part of Australia’s assistance to Kyiv in battling Russia’s invasion, with the craft having been developed under a AUS $11 million ($7.3 million) contract with the government’s Defence Innovation Hub.
Despite the low-tech nature of the drone’s main component, SYPAQ CEO Amanda Holt says the Corvo system will provide Ukraine with an affordable but highly effective aerial asset – and one the company is delivering at the rate of about 100 per month.
“PPDS is an Australian capability that will help the Ukrainian people defend their country, and is proof of the world-leading autonomous systems capabilities in Australian industry,” Holt said. “This capability is the result of an innovation journey with the Army and the Defence Innovation Hub, and demonstrates the importance of collaboration between Defence and industry on capability development.”