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 Silver badge


    "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 Silver badge

    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 Silver badge

    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 Silver badge

    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 Silver badge


      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 Silver badge

    Best news all day!

    Where do I send the pint?


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