During WWII the T2D2-1 Katydid was developed (no one really seems sure of exactly when, just that it was during the war). It was what could be
considered the first "real" UAV, as it was not based on a preexisting aircraft design.
The Katydid (later designated either the KDD-1 or KDH-1) was an air launched drone, wth a cylindrical fuselage, using a pulse jet engine, and a
V-tail. A small number were used by the US Navy during the war, but they weren't produced in large numbers.
In 1941, the Hoop-La was proposed by the Miles Aircraft Company of England. It would have been a high wing aircraft capable of carrying a bomb
weighing almost 1000 pounds. While the accuracy of the control system was very poor, the aircraft would have been able to hit a city sized target.
The aircraft was never produced however.
Begun in 1937, after seeing the Queen Bee the Option program looked to develop armed attack drones for the US Navy. Primary of these were the TDN-1
and TDR-1. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, there was a lot more interest in Option, and a plan was developed for 18 squadrons of unmanned
attack aircraft, numbering as many as 5,000 aircraft.
By 1942, the TDN-1 (Torpedo-Drone produced by the Naval Factory) had been born. It was a high wing, twin engine fixed landing gear aircraft, capable
of carrying either a torpedo, or a bomb weighing 1900 pounds. A total of 114 were built
The TDR-1 was developed around the same time as the TDN-1. It was a similar design, but was an aluminum low wing monoplane, built by the Interstate
Aircraft Company of Los Angeles. Control was from a modified Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber, using a joystick and a rotary dial system, similar to a
telephone. Four aircraft could be controlled at any one time.
In April of 1942, a successful torpedo attack was completed on a destroyer while the UAV was 20 miles from the control aircrat. RCA had developed
camera to mount in the UAV, to allow the operator to see what the UAV "saw". A second UAV was crashed into a target moving at 8 knots. By 1944, UAVs
were used in attacks in the Pacific, with noticable success . In 1944, 4 UAVs attacked a beached Japanese merchant ship, with 2 impacting the ship.
A total of 46 UAVs were used in the Soloman Islands during the war.
The GM A-1 was a joint development by Kettering and GM to develop a flying bomb. Like the Kettering Bug, it would be track launched, capable of
carrying a 500 pound bomb, 400 miles, with a top speed of 200 miles an hour. The program was eventually cancelled due to poor organization and
management, although several aircraft were built.
In 1941, the US began development of the BQ series of aircraft. There were several aircraft used, including the TDR-1 (XBQ-4), the AT-21 jet
developed by Fairchild, and the two most successful (using the term loosely), the unmanned B-17 and B-24 (BQ-7 and BQ-8 respectively).
Under the Aphrodite program, 25 B-17s were converted to BQ-7 aircraft. They were filled with 18,000 pounds of Torpex explosives, and were taken off
under the command of a pilot and copilot, who would bail out when the aircraft was airborne, turning control over to the command aircraft. The
aircraft were to attack hardened German targets, but yielded poor results, with one crashing on British soil, and one losing radio communications with
the control aircraft.
The B-24, would also be taken off by two pilots, before being turned over to the control aircraft, but was filled with 25,000 pounds of Torpex. It
was on one of these missions that Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, brother to John F. Kennedy, and Lieutenant Willford J. Willey were killed, when their
B-24 exploded in midair after arming the Torpex explosives. The Aphrodite program was cancelled shortly after, due to poor results.
At the same time, in 1941 Germany was working on their own UAV programs. They took a slightly different route however, than the Allies. Germany was
working on "composite aircraft". With a composite aircraft, a smaller aircraft, such as the BF-109, or FW-190 would be mounted on top of a larger
bomber aircraft. The smaller aircraft would steer the larger bomber towards the target area, eventually detaching, and allowing the larger aircraft
to fly to the target on autopilot.
Thus, the Mistel was born, under the "Beethoven" program. The Mistel first flew in 1943, and consisted of a Ju-88A bomber, with a Messerschmitt
BF-109E mounted on top of it. Later variants included the use of a Focke-Wulf Fw-190A on either a Ju-88A or Ju-88G bomber. The program remained
operational until 1944.
After WWII ended, the UAV idea began to blossom. Larger, faster UAVs were required as aircraft became faster, and better armed. It was during this
period that we began to see more purpose built UAVs, and the end of converted aircraft. This is when the UAV began to evolve into the look that we
In 1946, Radioplane developed what would later (in the 80s) be known as the Basic Training Target (BTT) family. The initial designations for them
were the OQ-19A/D (Army) and KD2R-1 (Navy).
The KD2R-1 became the MQM-36 Shelduck. It consisted of a 4-stroke 95 HP engine with radar enhancements on the wingtips to make it appear to be a
larger aircraft. Over 73,000 were made, and is reported to still be in service to this day.
The MQM-57 Falconer flew in 1955. It was longer than the Shelduck, but was a similar shape. However the Falconer had a radio control backup to the
autopilot system, as well as the ability to carry cameras, and illumination flares for night photography. All the MQM series were launched using a
rocket assist and could be recovered by parachute. The Falconer remained operational until the 1970s, despite only have an endurance of around half
In 1959, Beechcraft developed and flew the "Model 1001", which was later designated the MQM-39A in the Navy, and the "Model 1025" which became the
MQM-61A for the Army.
The US Navy issued a requirement for a recoverable low speed target, which led to the MQM-39A (initially designated the KDB-1). The MQM-39 was
powered by a 6-cylinder piston, and was either catapult or RATO launched, with a parachute recovery. The aircraft could have a number of systems
installed to show accuracy of the gunners, and could two targets or banners as well. It was built into the 1970s.
At the same time, the Army acquired the MQM-61A Cardinal, which was used from 1958. it was almost identical to the MQM-39 used by the Navy.
edit on 11/6/2013 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)
edit on 11/6/2013 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason
edit on 11/7/2013 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)