back to article Our Vulture 1 aircraft begins to take shape

It's been a busy week down at the Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) assembly plant, where the fuselage of the Vulture 1 has been taking shape. The aircraft has now been dubbed the Vulture 1-X pending flight tests, but there's plenty more construction ahead before the vehicle can take to the skies. As previously noted …


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  1. Poor Coco

    Nice work!

    She'll be a beauty... you say the structure's 57g so far, what's the electronic payload mass?

    These craft can be amazingly light. This spring I built a 4' wingspan free-flight sailplane, whose finished mass was a mere 125g + 50g nose ballast. Her name was Lulu, and she flew like a champ. I use the past tense because I was hard on her, perhaps even slightly sadistic, in the name of aeronautical expertise. Next year's plans include R/C, perhaps an ekranoplan to 'fly' in the soccer fields across the street from my home.

    Here's a pint: Cheers to Vulture 1-X!

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Payload wieght

      APRS/GPS is about 60g, camera about 30g. Have to add to that the styrofoam weight, but even with all that and a wingspan of 1 metre, it's not going to be a heavy beast.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well done, but....

    you did remember to put some pressure release holes in any enclosed volumes, didn't you?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Pressure relief

      Yup, we've got a cork with a needle sticking out of it, specifically for puncturing the straws - after we've applied any further treatment to the structure.

      1. John I'm only dancing

        Just make sure the fuselage is air tight.

        We don't want the pilot dying from oxygen starvation.

  3. Samuel Williams
    Thumb Up


    Now all you need is a paper Colditz from which to launch it!

    1. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      I wonder how many....... that one - I am of a "certain age" happily, in this context at any rate!

      1. Steve Hersey

        Let's hope they didn't do the entire Colditz thing...

        ... and plant spores of dry rot throughout the structure to destroy it in 50 years if all else failed.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re : Let's hope they didn't do the entire Colditz thing...

          A great few comments, When I read those books it was before the WWW. Apparently a number of the colditz buildings did need to be demolished because the timbers were unsafe. It looks like the fuze on those "bombs" was indeed quite long, but it sounds like they did the job. :)

  4. Elmer Phud


    "Just how to skin the aircraft is our next major challenge,"

    Silver Rizla - and then paint it with dope.

    1. lpopman

      titular announcement

      Ahh, silver Rizla, the frictionless paper. Never been able to get on with them, always seem to roll either too loose or too tight :/

      I'll stick to Zig-Zags thanks

      Oh, and as a suggestion for the skin, you can get ultra thin and light cellulose cigarette 'papers' maybe a suitably large piece of that would do?

      Flames coz I'm blazin'

    2. El Richard Thomas

      Wrong way round?

      Doesn't the dope usually go inside the Rizla?

  5. Adrian Jones

    Looking good

    Can't wait for the next instalment.

  6. Lottie


    Wll done on what looks like a great job so far. I can't wait to see your results!

  7. SuperTim

    airtight straws?

    Are the straws airtight at any point? It looks leaky enough to me but you dont want it bursting when it gets to very high altitude/crushing when it comes back down. You need to make sure there are some vents in any tightly sealed sections.

    I do worry sometimes.....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Single spar or single main spar?

    Cracking work, it's like reading a copy of ''Flight'' from the 1920s eg

    1. Andrew Newstead
      Thumb Up


      It does look a bit like like the rear fuselage internal structure of a Hawker biplane of the 30's or the Hurricane, no bad thing!

      Any chance of seeing the full plans for this aeroplane please?

      1. Clint Sharp


        I'd quite like to see the plans too, perhaps build one with my son when he's old enough.

        1. some vaguely opinionated bloke

          "perhaps build one with my son when he's old enough"

          I think you might be better off using paper.

      2. Paul_Murphy

        Probably not

        After all the Hurricane and biplane designs are expecting a power plant (ie a big fan at the front) whereas the glider will not enjoy the luxury.

        Therefore a 'proper' glider design is a much better idea.


        1. Andrew Newstead


          just commenting on the shape. I'm building a Hurricane model at the minute and have been looking at a lot of photos of the rear structure, it does bear a resemblance.

      3. El Richard Thomas


        They don't have no steenking plans, they're making it up as they go along :-)

        But of course, once it's finished they could produce a "Haines" manual based on the photos they take as they're building it...

  9. DZ-Jay


    She's looking very nice, Lester!

    I can't wait for the next installment.


  10. Martin Gregorie

    Nice work so far

    I look forward to seeing future progress reports.

    Meanwhile a suggestion: unless you need that big hole in the fuselage side for photography, etc, go for a removable single piece wing, brace the port side the same as the starboard side and simply take the wing off for access to the payload, which can then simply lift out. This way you don' need any external connections: the battery and USB socket are accessable once the wing is off.

    Don't worry about your structure obstructing the GPS signal - the sort of structure you're using should not block the signal at all My GPS gliding navigation kit works just fine inside a glass composite fuselage and Perspex canopy despite being barely 120 mm away from the face of the instrument panel - the instruments must pretty much block its view forward.

  11. Avatar of They

    I trust

    You will of course give it a playmobil re-enactment. Perhaps even some crew men?

    Or is that just far too silly for a friday afternoon?

  12. Chris Eaton

    The Colditz Plane

    Arrrgh Samuel you beat me to it! Saw a Channel 4 prog about colditz (its on 4OD btw) and at the end the recreated the colditz plane using modern techinques and coated the bedsheet exterior with special resins and stuff (as opposed to earwax etc) and got a pilot (poor guy) to actually fly it ; yes,it was beautiful ,and seeing these pics reminded me of their design.

  13. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I'm curious...

    How are you going to trim this? It's going to be moving a bit sharpish in the thin air, and I'm concerned that it has to come out of a dive on its own, first time every time...

    1. LB


      Trim it with little trim tabs, fitted to the elevator and wings, good old days.

  14. Mike Richards

    Well done Lewis

    Is this a prototype which will be tested to destruction, or the final PARIS?

    If the former, please be aware I am available at very short notice for all forms of experimental testing and will bring my own 2lb geological hammer and thermite.

  15. LB


    Good old fashion model building, the hours I spent making models with balsa wood, covering with different coloured tissue paper for covering, and a Jet-X power pack, we called it free flight back then. Good luck to the team.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Martin Gregorie


      A layer of kitchen foil inside the wings, tail fin and a single, vertical sheet inside the fuselage will make it radar-reflective, though whether ATC and airborne radar can see anything that small is another question.

      However as PARIS is nothing but a crushable paper structure with a somewhat harder 90g payload, its unlikely to damage any full size aircraft that hits it.

      1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

        Just A...

        ...corner reflector or two.

        The necessary framework would also be the bracing on the frame. no extra weight, etc.

  17. Baskitcaise

    For virgins?

    "New to PARIS? We have a basic mission summary"

    Missionary, shirley?

  18. Johnny Canuck
    Thumb Up

    Tissue paper

    You could use tissue paper to skin the aircraft like I used to do in the old days (before the plastic coatings we have today became popular). You'll have to dope the frame first though to make it waterproof because you basically soak the tissue with a sprayer. When it dries it shrinks taut. Then a couple more coats of dope and you're good to go.

    1. Steve Hersey

      Tissue covering and high-tech options

      Just FYI, the primary US aeromodeling association (Academy of Model Aeronautics, has a plentitude of resources and articles on stuff like this, several of which I've read in their magazine, Model Aviation. I'm certain our British partners have similar resources, but more info sources are always nice...

      For ultralight covering on wee-tiny-and-feather-light planes, the modern thing is "microfilm," which appears to be a high-tech version of cling-wrap. Dunno what its low-temperature characteristics are (which is likely to be critical for any plastic-based covering), but it is an option.

      Heavier-duty self-adhesive shrink-on coverings like MonoKote, Ultracote, and similar are likely to be too vigorous in the shrinking department for this lightweight structure, BUT it's worth checking them out as options, 'cause some are less shrinky than others. For radar reflectivity, aluminized Mylar (Space Blanket stuff) may be worth a thought, though attaching it taut and wrinkle-free would be a nightmare, as it doesn't heat-shrink. Very snazzy look, though.

      All that being said, the classic tissue and dope solution may well prove to be the most practical solution.

  19. Blitheringeejit

    Shoot me down in flames if I'm wrong, but...

    ... isn't styrofoam made of little enclosed volumes full of air? Extreme Altitude = Kaboom?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge


      Well, other high-altitude projects have used styrofoam for their payload boxes, and it hasn't exploded, so we're assuming the air bleeds out slowly as the pressure drops.

      1. Adam 10
        Thumb Up

        But wait...

        One of the visual demonstrations done by deep-sea explorers is to attach styrofoam cups to the outside of their capsules (manned and unmanned) and then show them once they return to the surface... Somewhat shrunken.

        So, something must be happening to permanently shrink the cup under the increased pressure.

        However, the worst-case reduced pressure is 0 bar (a change of -1 bar) whereas those deep-sea probes operate at lots and lots of bar.

        Perhaps you should test with a makeshift vacuum chamber, or use open-celled foam instead?

  20. Samuel


    Beat me to it about the styrene expansion.

    Is styro permeable?

  21. Bryn Evans
    Paris Hilton

    Give the construction team their moment of glory! As "AoT" said, why not a photo shoot for posterity - get the Playmobil gang out round the frame. Also, if weight and balance allows, lets have a proper pilot in the cockpit for what is intended to be a momentous occasion in the history of aviation, blah blair!

    Paris, because of the name, and because she is supposed to be an airhead !

  22. Blitheringeejit

    Empirical research required

    Surely we should check - please can the next Reg reader who takes a transatlantic flight remember to open the window mid-Atlantic and chuck out a piece of styrofoam, just to make sure it doesn't go kaboom?

  23. M Gale

    Sky lanterns/Fire balloons

    The ones you buy in shops and market stalls are about a quid each, and are made out of oodles of lovely lightweight (and fire-resistant) tissue paper. Could be possibly worth buying a few just for the creative re-uses of the main construction material.

  24. The old man from scene 24

    Mass & balance

    Any idea whether the mass & balance envelopes will fit the placement of the electronic kit?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Mass and balance

      They will - we'll have to ballast the nose or tail slightly to get the flight characteristics spot on.

  25. mky

    Covering the beast.

    I actually have been using simple glue sticks to attach the covering on my stick and tissue models. I then use Aliphatic resin (yellow wood glue, I suggest Titebond if available) thinned 50-50 with tap water to seal down all seams. I then use an atomizer bottle with water or isopropyl alcohol to shrink the tissue tight. Once its dried and I am satisfied with the results I use rattle cans of paint for color. if the tissue is already the appropriate color I use a satin or matte clear coat as a finish. It works quite well.

    This technique should work fine for attaching most paper coverings. Depending on the type of paper used, you may or may not want to forgo the shrinking stage.

    I should make it clear that I am not a competition modeler. I build for the fun of it.

    Good luck.

  26. StampedChipmunk
    Thumb Up

    Tissue Paper + Cellulose dope

    Skinning is simple - layer of tissue paper, light cell dope. Repeat several times (four or five at least) then don't smoke near the thing - unless they've made a more safety conscious Cellulose dope as opposed to the vicious stuff I used in my youth which was basically an excuse to get high in my bedroom...

    Here's to PARIS

  27. Z80
    Paris Hilton

    Sorry if I've missed this but... the Canon Powershot still going along for the ride?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Yes it is

      It's in the main payload - the big styrofoam box which the Vulture 1 sits under.

  28. Eddy Ito

    Best news all day!

    Where do I send the pint?

  29. Johnny Canuck

    plastic covering?

    You can't use plastic to skin the aircraft. If you did it would no longer be a PAPER airplane.

  30. Nexox Enigma

    Looks amazing

    Lovely structure you've got there - almost as if an engineer was involved : -)

    The only issue I see is that you've smashed the cross braces together, right at the center, where they'd be subject to the highest bending moment in compressional failure. Since you've got an X shape, you're assured that under any sort of stress, one of them will be in compression, and if it decides to go non-linear, it could take the tension side with it... though the tension piece would actually brace it somewhat... It would have been a lot more work, but for more strength, 1 straight brace with 2 shorter braces glued on to form the X, appropriately gusseted with more paper, would have been far stronger. And technically, a Y brace, or even just a plain diagonal, is probably plenty strong.

    Good thing I'm not in charge of this thing, as right about now I'd probably be attempting to laser-cut some home-made all-paper sandwhich structures (and setting them on fire by accident, natch.)

  31. Jacqui

    dope film

    Someone earlier mentioned ultra lights - IIRC "dope" was sprayed on water and this produced a fine film which could then be lifted off and placed over the UL glider frame.

    Anything more than a toothpick and/or needle would tear it so some serious dexterity and care needed in construction (which is where I got involved - having lots of sewing needles, dextrous and stupid enouigh not to say no ) :-/


  32. Jacqui


    How about having a playmobil comp - get peeps to build the best/lightest playmobil spaceplane jockey and sed in pictures - leave enough room for him/her in the cockpit - someone decides which is best!

    Merkins have thier unmanned drone but us brits gotto have a "likkle icckle pilot" :-)


    1. Dex


      second this suggestion! To boldly go where no playmobil has gone before! just make sure you factor in the little dude(tte)'s weight!

      Troll as there is no playmobil icon...fix it!

  33. Stuart Halliday

    Better Batteries

    May I recommend you use the Hybrid AA rechargeable batteries sold by Maplin?

    They don't discharge like ordinary AA Ni-MH over time so keep their power for far longer and will provide far better current for your camera than ordinary AA. Also far cheaper and easier to find than when you need them.

  34. Paul_Murphy

    So I was right?


    If I remember the Colditz glider was doped with extracts from egg shells - though they recommended modern equivalents.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Colditz Dope

      IIRC - according to the documentary - the dope was made from millet seed. Ground up and mixed with water to produce a sort of porrige

  35. iCredulous
    Paris Hilton

    Skin material

    How about those paper suits you use for decorating, bit tougher than tissue paper and still falls within the requirements?

  36. Asgard
    Thumb Up

    Good jig trick :)

    I like the jig trick with the notice board pins which holds the straws in the air. :) ... I will have to remember that one, as it'll help stop things getting clued to the board when they are drying :) ... (I'm talking about using cold glues which take time to dry).

  37. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Tissue covering

    As others have said - modelling tissue is available from anywhere that does balsa models - hell, I've some here doing nothing much.

    However - make sure that you shrink it with water and use a *non-shrinking* dope or you'll likely just crush your structure... it's quite impressive (and bloody annoying) watching it distort your carefully built wing...

    On the subject of weight - down to a minimum is all very well, but possibly not your best bet. A heavier wing loading will fly faster and probably more stably - I have a 60" wingspan model here that I've just weighed at 380g all up, that manages a much better glide angle than my paraglider.

    Wing loading for model = 380/2.5 = 152g/square foot

    For paraglider = 100,000/320 = 312g/square foot

    And back to trimming it - in what attitude will you have it depart the carrier? I wonder if nose-down might be the best bet. At least that way it's going to acquire some airflow over the wing once it drops, and from there if it's trimmed right it should go to stable flight.

    1. A J Stiles

      Tut tut tut

      Mixing grammes and feet in the same calculation is just asking for trouble.

      We have base units for a reason. If you measure all lengths in metres, all masses in kg and all times in seconds, and persevere stubbornly with this despite the occasional need for exponential notation (which is already a non-issue if you are using a slide rule!), then all your answers will just come out already in the proper units: forces in Newtons, energy in Joules, pressures in Pascals, magnetic flux in Webers and so forth.

      Mine's the one with the picture of that crashed Mars probe on the back and the book of log tables in the pocket.

  38. MattW


    Your paper reinforcing 'brackets' at straw junctions are actually 'gussets'.

    1. A J Stiles
      Paris Hilton


      This is Lester Haines we're dealing with here. Don't give him ideas, unless yiou want to end up with a whole series of gusset stories.

      Paris because ..... oh, you know.

  39. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Wing covering

    Do they sell rolling paper in "Cocklewell Carrot" size?

    1. Martin Budden

      It was a

      Camberwell Carrot, not Cocklewell ;-)

  40. James O'Brien
    Paris Hilton

    Very nice

    Though are you going to draw alittle stick figure for a pilot and glue on a pic of the back of paris' head for added comedy?

  41. Bruce Ordway

    two-part epoxy

    >Superglue or two-part epoxy

    Just wondering if there were any restrictions specified on your use of these.

    When does a structure stop being all paper?

    I sometimes build up forms using fabrics and papers where they just act as a surface to lay down acrylics or epoxies. I especially like to use Elmers glue to build up forms over wax paper. The paper can be discarded after the glue is finished drying.

  42. Adrian Esdaile
    Paris Hilton

    Speaking of dope...

    it really should have a small parcel of MJ aboard, that way it can mimic the real thing!

    DOH! Where did I leave my stash now?

  43. Mips
    Jobs Halo

    That gusset....

    ... is far too small. Now if you were to use steel or aluminium it would be ok. Try a diagonal brace instead. Better have a look at some WW1 aircraft or have a look at the work of Barnes-Wallace.

    What happened to the A4?

  44. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    @ A J Stiles - units

    Picky, picky, picky... I thought we weren't doing an El Reg Mars shot for a couple of years yet?

    Since you insist: wing loading ~= 1500g/square metre and 3100g/square metre for the glider and paraglider respectively. Or if you prefer imperial, 0.34lbs/square foot and 0.69lbs/square foot.

  45. The Beer Monster


    Aren't there any El Reg standard units to use?

  46. Dave 62

    I fly like paper get high like planes...

    Poor Coco - Me likey ekranoplan! I want to make one of these to attempt to fly over the local boating lake. Good luck to you, should liven up that silly pig bladder game.

    Nexox Enigma - liking the sandwich structure idea, I wonder are there any commercially available all paper sandwich solutions? I have a vague feeling there might be. If I had any degree of manual dexterity I might attempt to make some paper honeycombs.

    Lester, old pal, why not give us what plans you have made and we can look them over?

    Because.. otherwise we might have to do real work.

    As for the skin, maybe if you ask Rizla nicely they will provide large sheets. Would be nice to see it in Suzuki style Rizla livery too. Metallic gold paint might help with ballast and radar reflectivity :-p

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Vulture designs available elsewhere

    For those like me with long memories -

  48. ian 22


    I did enjoy seeing the paper aircraft foundry. Thank you Lester.

    If a bit of radar reflectivity is needed, try inserting a narrow strip of metallised mylar in the main wing spar.

    Any plans for corporate sponsor's logos on the exterior? Racing stripes?

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