Monday, August 04, 2014

The Original Drone from World War One

Drones are a hot topic. It is not purely the missile carrying military drones, but the idea of private drones. How should they be handled? Pizza delivery sounds great, but 21st century peeping Toms seem too far. Can they be stopped as a commercial or even consumer good?  The media will probably fight to suppress drones, or else Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias and random liberal activist judges would start sweating nervously at the slightest hum. What's the first drone? The Nazi's V1 rocket! Good answer but wrong. The first drone appeared in test flights for World War One.

The original flying drone was never uses in WW1, but it was designed and tested. Invented by Charles Kettering, the first drone was an unmanned biplane. It was basically a flying bomb; a crude cruise missile would be an accurate name. How was it unmanned yet used when motorized aircraft were still new? The launch crews would take atmospheric measurements as well as measurements of distance to target, and then work backwards for how many revolutions of the engine it would take to get there. Good old fashioned math skills. A replica of this small wonder if at the Air Force Museum in Dayton.

The drone never saw military use. It was shelved and never developed further but did contribute to guided missile development. Kettering went on the greater achievements. The American fascination with destruction continued, but while this drone could have been developed into an imprecise yet fantastic weapon of destruction, the US military moved towards a precision path. It also was part of America's disregard for air power. Father of the US Air Force, Billy Mitchell, argued for aggressive investment in air capabilities with a famous demonstration on the potential of bombers versus large naval targets. Despite Mitchell's prophetic and correct views, no one else cared.

The real drive for precision bombing in WW2 was not for targets, but to minimize collateral damage for the pretense that we, the righteous American colossus, were only going after military targets. America's shining city on a hill mythology requires it to believe it is only doing good, so only the bad must be their targets. American forces still go through this today as best exemplified by President Bush's desire to airdrop meal packets to Afghans as soon as humanely possible in 2001 after bombing Taliban targets. Publicity matters when you have to answer to the real sovereign: the media. Precision, guidance, humanitarian air drops... we did not care so much about these things in Dresden.

Replica of "The Bug"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They could send a drone over the Werner von Braun Space Center in Alabama.
The drone genie is out of the bottle as other countries are now copying them.

Here is an oldie but a goodie regarding dracking of hones: