A Melbourne-based company, SYPAQ Systems, has delivered several 'Corvo Precision Payload Delivery System' (PPDS) drones to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The flat-pack drones are made of waxed cardboard, can be easily assembled, and are launched with a catapult.

They have a flight range of up to 120km and are designed to deliver ammunition, food, and medicine directly to the front line. In addition, they can perform reconnaissance flights or drop small explosive devices. 

The Australian government launched an initiative and an AU$1.1m government contract to develop and supply drones. The PPDS is a low-cost, expendable drone for delivering supplies and equipment into areas that traditional logistics capabilities cannot reach.

Flat-pack design

The flat-pack design makes it easy to ship the drones, with 24 of them in pizza-size boxes that fit on a pallet. These boxes also contain the drones’ assembly materials, tools, motors, and batteries.

The company could not discuss the price, but it is understood to be a few thousand dollars per unit. About 100 Australian drones are delivered every month, according to the manufacturer. According to Yahoo News, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have already sent more than 60 on sorties to the front line. The drones are designed to operate under challenging conditions. 

The PPDS flies autonomously without operator control and uses GPS guidance where available. However, the control software can work out its position from speed and heading if GPS is jammed.

This makes it possible for the drone to carry out missions even under conditions of complete radio jamming, which is essential in Ukraine, where Russian electronic warfare has reportedly taken down large numbers of drones.

Following feedback from end-users in Ukraine, the system has also been adapted for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. The drones will be sent out over Russian-occupied territory with a camera or other sensors to gain information. 

The company is committed to delivering low-cost expendable drones in volume, and the PPDS is an Australian capability that will help the Ukrainian people defend their country.

The drones are manufactured at SYPAQ’s Defense Autonomy Center of Excellence in Fisherman’s Bend, Melbourne, using components from SYPAQ’s Australian supply chain.

Importance of collaboration

PPDS results from an innovation journey with the army and the Defense Innovation Hub, demonstrating the importance of collaboration between the Department of Defense and industry on capability development.

In February, Australia pledged to provide Ukraine with unmanned aerial systems worth $33m. Ukraine is massively enhancing its drone fleet with various new models, and the Corvo PPDS is one of the more unusual ones.

The drone industry usually focuses on ever more sophisticated and expensive drones, but companies like SYPAQ are committed to delivering low-cost expendable drones in volume.

The PPDS is simple and basic, but the factory-made drone is still more sophisticated than some of the homemade drones that Ukrainian forces have successfully used for the bombing, with vastly more advanced software.