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Russia turns to Chinese plywood drones for strike operations in Ukraine

Russian volunteers are now using Chinese plywood to build drones, which are then shipped to Russian soldiers for deployment over Ukrainian cities. It was found that using plywood as a framing material reduces the manufacturing costs of these drones by 10-15%. If this approach gains approval from the Russian government, it could potentially increase production to meet rapid deployment needs. According to a Russian source, the main advantage of this design is its flexibility, allowing the creation of frames of different sizes for various applications.
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Russian volunteers are now using Chinese plywood to assemble drones, which are then transported to Russian soldiers for deployment over Ukrainian cities (Picture source: Russian Social Media)

The construction process involves using a computer-controlled router to cut the drone frames from 9mm thick plywood. Additional components are cut from thinner plywood using a laser cutter. Once the frame is ready, it is assembled with various drone components, including four motors and propellers, an ELRS receiver, a flight controller stack, a video camera and transmitter, an antenna, and a battery. It was found that many volunteer-produced plywood-framed drones were shipped to the Ukrainian war front but then disappeared for reasons that remain unclear.

At the same time, as Army Recognition reported on August 28, 2023, Sypaq, an Australian aerospace company, is delivering cardboard drones to the Ukrainian armed forces. Initially designed for reconnaissance and transport of equipment, these drones were adapted by the Ukrainians to transport explosive payloads. Although they are made of cardboard, they are weather-resistant and can carry warheads ranging from 3 to 5 kg with a strike range of up to 120 kilometers. Their flight time varies between 1 and 3 hours depending on various factors like payload weight and weather conditions.

The use of Chinese plywood in Russian drones and cardboard in Ukrainian drones highlights the increasingly important role of laudable materials in the ongoing conflict. These developments also highlight the complexity of the trade and geopolitical relationships at play. More than 83% of Russia's timber exports pass through Chinese supply chains, making China Russia's main distribution point to global forest markets. China, the world's largest plywood manufacturer, supplied more than 71% of the global plywood market in 2020. A considerable portion of this plywood comes from Russian forests in Siberia and the Far East and is exported to China, probably to be re-imported into Russia by train or ship. routes. This trade could eventually be part of the Arctic Transshipment project, a collaboration between superpowers on northern sea routes to transport oil, gas, and timber.

As we all know by now, drones are an integral part of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Russian and Ukrainian forces regularly employ drones, most of which are off-the-shelf models customized to carry grenades and target personnel and vehicles. The use of plywood and cardboard in drone construction adds a new dimension to the conflict, reflecting broader geopolitical and commercial relations as well as the quest for ever-lower production costs.


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