August 1945 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Radio-controlled flying drones
are commonplace today - so much so that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
has enacted legislation to strictly limit who can fly them, where they can be flown,
how big they can be, what type of payloads can be carried, how far from the pilot
they can be flown, etc. - the typical kind of overreaching and
that governments promulgate (especially in the last few years). Sport model airplane
flying has suffered loss of freedoms because of it by getting lumped in with
The military, of course, has been using radio-controlled drones for decades,
as highlighted in this 1945 Radio-Craft magazine article. Author Louis
Bruchiss extolls the advantages of being able to guide an ordinance payload after
being released from an aircraft of after being launched from the ground. Even vehicles
like the German
V-2 rocket with its gyroscopically stabilized guidance system was not able to
have its flight path altered once in flight.
V-1 Buzz Bombs
were winged bomb-carrying vehicles that could either be dropped from airplanes or
from launching rails on the ground, but it too was not steerable. Adding remote
control to the flying bombs would make a huge difference in the ability to hit specific
targets using fewer vehicles rather than needing to launch a large number of them
and hope that at least one manages to score. Of course precision bombing does lose
the psychological warfare advantage of terrorizing the civilian population by reducing
I do have some observations about the drawing
of the proposed radio-controlled drone. First, there is no landing gear meaning
it will never take off from the ground; therefore, what is the need for a harder-to-build
inverted gull wing shape? More structure - and thereby more weight and scarce material
- is needed to accommodate the shape. The
Vaught F4-U Corsair, made famous by the
Black Sheep Squadron, is perhaps most recognizable because of
its inverted gull wing (as seen from the front). It was necessary, even with a 3-bladed
propeller, in order to get the nose of the plane up high enough to prevent the prop
from hitting the ground (the F4-U had a massive
Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp twin-row, 18-cylinder radial engine,
rated at 1,805 hp). The second observation is the extraordinarily high angle
of incidence of the wing relative to the horizontal stabilizer (the technical term
is "decalage"). Third, why
use a fully symmetrical airfoil rather than a high lift, semi-symmetrical airfoil
that would reduce power requirements and/or increase range
(for a given amount of fuel)? Other than that, I approve
Radio Robot Plane
By Louis Bruchiss
A comparison of present-day short-trajectory bombing methods
with future bombing, using long-range radio-controlled aerial torpedoes.
One of the most startling possibilities in future air warfare appears to be the
development of radio-controlled robot airplanes that can accompany heavy, long-range
bombers to their distant objectives. Large bombers, despite their numerous gun stations
and heavy armament, are always vulnerable to numerically superior and faster enemy
fighter aircraft because they are of themselves slower and more cumbersome. Fighter
aircraft cannot accompany them on distant missions because their normal fuel capacity
As part of the bomb load, these huge flying fortresses could each carry a number
of tiny radio-controlled planes. These miniature planes would have folding wings
so that they could be stowed away in the fuselage of the larger mother ship, the
robot planes being staggered to fit the least possible interference into the faired-away
interior. They would have small and inexpensive engines of the required output,
fed from fuel tanks of rather small capacity, since their radius and duration of
action would be intentionally limited. They will carry a gyro pilot, controlled
by robot mechanism set by radio impulses transmitted from the mother plane, as well
as several bombs and smoke-screen gas tanks. The bombs could be detonated by radio.
In no branch of aerial warfare has there been any weapon exhibiting the versatile
possibilities that these radio robot planes incorporate. They could be hung upon
special hooks within the fuselage and the crew could lower them through the fuselage
doors, open and lock the wings, start the engine, check the radio control, and release
them for free but controlled flight within the visual range of the radio control
operators. Carrying their timeable bomb load, they could be directed into formations
of enemy aircraft to create havoc among them, and divert and prevent attacks upon
the bombers themselves. They could be sent into enemy ground objectives with more
accuracy and with less danger to the bombers than any precision-aimed free bomb
drops. They could precede or surround the bombers they protect, sometimes emitting
smoke screens to confuse the enemy aircraft.
Construction of Radio Torpedo
|1 - High explosive charge.
2 - Detonator and fuse.
3 - Firing pin.
4 - Radio control space.
5 - High-powered gas engine.
6 - Radio aerial.
7 - 3-blade propeller.
8 - Gas tank.
|9 - Gear.
10 - Propeller hub.
11 - Shaft.
12 - Propeller head.
13 - Exhaust pipe.
14 - Rear antenna.
15 - Filling plug.
16 - Tail.
17 - Wing.
Since they could not be retrieved, and their object would always be to destroy
themselves with their deadly cargo, it is apparent that they could be constructed
of nondurable materials. Being small and light, they could be produced in huge quantities
at comparatively low cost. They would represent an enormous "suicide squad," but
one which would not risk a single life of the operating forces. While they could
be adapted equally well to protect shipping when operated from surface vessels,
their greatest all-round use would be as bomber-based flying bombs.
This particular radio-controlled bomb would have several unique features differentiating
it sharply from long-range robot planes controlled by set mechanisms, such as the
V-1 type used by the Nazis against England. The latter must have sufficient instruments
to detect, correct and compensate for variations in air density, winds and course
changes caused by exploding anti-aircraft shells. Being controlled within the limits
of visual range from mother aircraft (these limits may extend up to a hundred miles
under good weather conditions if observed through high-powered glasses and if equipped
with smoke trail apparatus), the flying bomb is not a robot in the sense of those
that are launched with preset controls. If anything, it becomes more of a precision
bomb than those which are dropped in free flight and over which no further control
can be exercised.
The constructional possibilities are disclosed in the accompanying illustration.
Essentially, this radio-controlled bomb could be made in three sections which could
be nested into each other for final assembly. The forward section or nose would
contain the small compression-ignition engine, together with fuel tanks and propeller.
Due to their short-range action, fuel tanks would be relatively small. The center
section would be the actual bomb containing the explosive, which could be detonated
either through the firing pin extending through the forward power section, past
the propeller spinner, or by means of radio through a detonator operated from the
rear section. The rear section would carry the radio receiver connected directly
to the tail surface controls. Connecting rods, cables and wires therefore would
be direct and short. The wings would set into special recesses and hooks on the
While controllable bombs of this type would cost more than free-drop bombs of
similar weight, they might in all likelihood reduce heavy bomber losses because
the latter could remain well away from the target area in any direction.
Excerpt from "Aircraft Armament," published by Aerosphere Inc., N. Y. C.
Posted April 18, 2021
(updated from original post on 11/6/ 2014)