WHEN MOST PEOPLE hear the word “drone” they either think of uncrewed military aircraft or those multi-rotor mini-copters that could one day deliver packages to your doorstep. But what if the package is the plane? That’s the idea behind the Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions drone, a cardboard glider that carries about two pounds of cargo.
“It looks like a pizza box that’s been shaped into a wing,” says Star Simpson, an engineer at San Francisco robotics company Otherlab. Her team designed and built Apsara with funding from Darpa, which challenged them to develop a single-use delivery vehicle for emergency scenarios. But, Darpa being Darpa, there was a twist: The drones had to not only carry a small payload and land where you told them to—once they were on the ground, they had to disappear.