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Introduction to UAV. History of Unmanned Aerial Systems. Content provided by: V. Ambrosia, S. Wegener, S. Schoenung. Outline. 1.0 UAV Classification 2.0 UAV Functions 3.0 History of UAVs Pre-1900 1900 – 1980’s 1990’s to Present The Future 4.0 History of UAV VTOL (Rotorcraft)

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history of unmanned aerial systems

Introduction to UAV

History ofUnmanned Aerial Systems

Content provided by: V. Ambrosia, S. Wegener, S. Schoenung

International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment



1.0 UAV Classification

2.0 UAV Functions

3.0 History of UAVs


1900 – 1980’s

1990’s to Present

The Future

4.0 History of UAV VTOL (Rotorcraft)

1960’s to Present

The Future

5.0 Notable UAV Endurance Flights


UAV Classification

Although most UAVs are fixed-wing aircraft, rotorcraft designs are also used. UAVs typically fall into one of six functional categories:

Target and decoy Reconnaissance

Combat Logistics

Research and Development Civil and Commercial UAVs

They can also be categorized in terms of size / range / altitude:

LASE (low altitude, short-endurance) Handheld: 2,000 ft (600 m) altitude, about 2 km range

LASE Close: 5,000 ft (1,500 m) altitude, up to 10 km range

NATO type: 10,000 ft (3,000 m) altitude, up to 50 km range

Tactical: 18,000 ft (5,500 m) altitude, about 160 km range

MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) up to 30,000 ft (9,000 m) and range over 200 km

HALE (high altitude, long endurance) over 30,000 ft and indefinite range

HYPERSONIC: high-speed, supersonic (Mach 1-5) or hypersonic (Mach 5+) 50,000 ft (15,200 m) or suborbital altitude, range over 200 km

ORBITAL: low earth orbit (Mach 25+)


UAV Airspace Definitions


Global Hawk




Heron 2

Predator B






Heron 1

Predator A



Aerostar, Hermes, Sky Eye,

Vigilante, Fire scout, Hunter,

Shadow 200





Endurance (hours)




International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment


UAV Functions

UAVs perform a wide variety of functions. The majority of these functions are some form of remote sensing; this is central to the reconnaissance role most UAVs fulfill. Less common UAV functions include interaction and transport.

Remote Sensing


Scientific Research

Armed Attack

Search and Rescue


History of Early UAVs: Pre-1900

Years before the first manned airplane flight on December 17, 1903, primitive UAV technology was used for combat and surveillance in at least two wars

During the American Civil War, Charles Perley designed a hot-air balloon that could carry a basket laden with explosives attached to a timing mechanism. The timer would trip the balloon's hinged basket, and the explosives would drop out, igniting a fuse in the process.

During the Spanish-American War of 1898, Corporal William Eddy (US) took hundreds of surveillance photographs from a kite rigged with a long shutter release attached to its string.


History of Early UAVs: Pre 1900

Langley Aerodrome Number 5

In 1891,Samuel Pierpont Langley experimented with large, tandem-winged models powered by small steam and gasoline engines he called aerodromes. He flew his first mission on May 6, 1896, with his Aerodrome Number 5. It made the world's first successful flight of an unpiloted, engine-driven, heavier-than-air craft of substantial size. It was launched from a spring-actuated catapult mounted on top of a houseboat on the Potomac River near Quantico, Virginia. Two flights were made on May 6, one of 1,005 m (3,300 ft) and a second of 700 m (2,300 ft), at a speed of approximately 40 kph (25 mph).

Dimensions:Wingspan: 4.2 m (13 ft 9 in)Length: 4.0 m (13 ft 2 in)Height: 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in)Weight: 11.4 kg (25 lb)Materials:Fuselage: Steel Tubing Wings and Tail: Wood with Silk Covering

International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment


History of UAVs: 1900-1920

Three months before the Wright Brother’s manned flight (17 December 1903) Karl Jatho of Germany flew and unmanned aircraft for longer and higher than the Wright Brothers Flyer.

Karl Jatho Biplane

Between August and November of 1903, Karl Jatho demonstrated a gasoline-fueled pilot-less biplane that covered a distance of 196 feet at a height of 11 feet near Hannover, Germany.


History of UAVs: 1900-1920

During World War I, the first UAVs took flight in the U.S. Though the success of UAVs in test flights was erratic, the military recognized their potential in combat. Armistice arrived before the prototype UAVs could be deployed in earnest

Sperry Aerial Torpedo

In 1917, Dr. Peter Cooper and Elmer A. Sperry invented the automatic gyroscopic stabilizer, which helps to keep an aircraft flying straight and level. Cooper and Sperry used their technological breakthrough to convert a U.S. Navy Curtiss N-9 trainer aircraft into the first radio-controlled UAV. The Sperry Aerial Torpedo flew 50 miles carrying a 300-pound bomb in several test flights, but it never saw combat.


History of UAVs: 1900-1920

Kettering “Bug” Aerial Torpedo

Made of wood and canvas for $400 each, the "Kettering Bug" was a small biplane equipped to carry a bomb load equal to its own weight—300 pounds. Charles F. Kettering of General Motors designed the Bug to take off from a wheeled trolley and then detach its wings, allowing its fuselage to dive vertically towards a pre-programmed target. The U.S. military ordered large quantities of the Bug during the last months of World War I, but when the war ended the orders were cancelled.


History of UAVs: 1930’s

For more than a decade after the end of World War I, development of pilotless aircraft in the U.S. and abroad declined sharply. By the mid-to-late 1930s, new UAVs emerged as an important combat training tool.

DH.82B Queen Bee

The Queen Bee (UK), the first returnable and reusable UAV, was designed for use as an aerial target during training missions. The spruce-and-plywood biplanes first flew in 1935 and bore wheels or floats. The Queen Bee was radio-controlled and could fly as high as 17,000 feet and travel a maximum distance of 300 miles at over 100 mph. A total of 380 Queen Bees served as target drones in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy until they were retired in 1947.


History of UAVs: 1930’s

For more than a decade after the end of World War I, development of pilotless aircraft in the U.S. and abroad declined sharply. By the mid-to-late 1930s, new UAVs emerged as an important combat training tool.

General characteristics

Crew: None

Length: 12 ft 8 in (3.85 m)

Wingspan: 11 ft 6 in (3.50 m)

Height: 2 ft 6 in (0.76 m)

Empty weight: 271 lb (123 kg)

Gross weight: 360 lb (163 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × McCulloch O-100-2, 90 hp (67 kW)


Maximum speed: 230 mph (370 km/h)

Endurance: 1 hours

Service ceiling: 23,000 ft (7,000 m)


In 1939, Englishman and Hollywood actor Reginald Denny formed Radioplane Company (Northrop / Grumman today) Denny used a team of engineers and radio experts from Lockheed Company, and developed a large, remote-controlled airplane called OQ Targets. The U.S. Air Force ordered thousands of OQ drones, which took off via a large slingshot and landed with the aid of a 24-foot parachute. The U.S. Army and Navy used OQ Targets, which cost about $600 each, to train a whole generation of anti-aircraft gunners.


History of UAVs: 1940’s

During World War II, Nazi Germany's innovative V-1 demonstrated the formidable threat a UAV could pose in combat. America's attempts to eliminate the V-1 laid the groundwork for post-war UAV programs in the U.S.

V-1 (Germany)

At the outset of World War II, Fieseler Flugzeuhau designed the Fieseler Fi-103, better known as the Vergeltungswaffe (Revenge weapon)-1, or V-1, to launch via a long catapult-like ramp and fly at 470 mph. The V-1 UAV was powered by a thrust pulsejet, which produced a signature buzzing sound. It could carry a 2,000-pound warhead and was pre-programmed to fly 150 miles before it dropped its bomb. First launched against Britain in 1944, V-1s killed more than 900 civilians and injured more than 35,000 in British cities.


History of UAVs: 1940’s

PB4Y-1 and BQ-7

The ongoing threat of the German V-1 during World War II prompted the U.S. Navy to develop UAVs that could destroy V-1 launch sites. In 1944, the Navy's Special Air Unit One (SAU-1) converted PB4Y-1 Liberators and B-17s to carry 25,000 pounds of explosives and fly by remote control using television guidance systems. The planes, known respectively as the PB4Y-1 AND BQ-7, took off with a two-man crew, who would fly the plane to 2,000 feet and set a course for V-1 launch sites in France before bailing out. Though dangerous, these operations were successful in knocking out V-1s and mark the first time a UAV was used against another UAV.


History of UAVs: 1960’s

From their early use as target drones and remotely piloted combat vehicles, UAVs took on a new role during the Vietnam War: stealth surveillance.

AQM-34 Ryan Firebee

In 1960, the U.S. Air Force began its first stealth aircraft program The resulting AQM-34 Ryan Firebee was air-launched and controlled from a DC-130 director aircraft. After a mission, the Firebee UAV was directed to a safe recovery area, where it deployed its parachute and was picked up by a helicopter. From October 1964 to April 1975, >1,000 Ryan Firebee UAVs flew >34,000 operational surveillance missions over Southeast Asia. The Firebee was extremely reliable; 83 percent of the Firebees flown during the Vietnam War returned to fly another day.

Specifications (BQM-34A)

Length: 22 ft 10 in (7.00 m)

Wingspan: 12 ft 10 in (3.91 m)

Empty weight: 1,500 lb (680 kg)

Gross weight: 2,500 lb (1,135 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Continental J69-T-29A, 1,700 lbf (7.6 kN)


Maximum speed: 710 mph (1,140 km/h)

Endurance: 1 hours  15 min

Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,300 m)


History of UAVs: 1960’s

Lockheed D-21

With the shooting-down of Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane over Russia in 1960, the CIA began work on a new UAV, invulnerable to attack. Lockheed developed a high-speed, ultra-stealth UAV, producing a single D-21 UAV in 1965. The Mach-4 vehicle, the fastest UAV in history, was carried on the back of a piloted M-12 "mother" aircraft and had a range of 3,000 miles. It operated at a height of 80,000 feet and was covered in Lockheed's signature plastic anti-radar coating, a precursor to the stealthy outer skin of today's Lockheed F-117 Stealth Fighter and B-2 Stealth Bomber. D-21 flew three failed missions before it crashed and sank on the fourth at an undisclosed location.

Specifications (D-21)

D-21A and D-21B without booster

Wingspan: 19 ft 1/4 in (5.79 m)

Length: 42 ft 10 in (12.8 m)

Height: 7 ft 1/4 in (2.14 m)

Launch weight: 11,000 lb (5,000 kg)

Maximum speed: Mach 3.35 (2,210 mph, 1,920 knots, 3,560 km/h)

Service ceiling: 95,000 ft (29,000 m)

Range: 3,000 nmi, 3,450 mi, 5,550 km

Engine: 1 x Marquart RJ43-MA-11 ramjet, 1,500 lbf (6.67 kN)


History of UAVs: 1970’s

The success of the Firebee continued through the end of the Vietnam War. In the 1970s, while other countries began to develop their own advanced UAV systems, the U.S. set its sights on other kinds of UAVs.

Firebee 1241 (Israel)

Israel secretly purchased 12 Firebees from the U.S. in 1970, modified them, and designated them Firebee 1241 UAVs. These Firebee 1241s played an important role in the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel, Egypt, and Syria, both as reconnaissance vehicles and as new kinds of UAVs: decoys. On the 2nd day of the war the Israelis deployed their fleet of armed Firebees to lead attacks against Egyptian air defenses along the Suez. The Egyptians fired their entire inventory of surface-to-air missiles at the Firebees—43 missiles in all. The Firebees successfully evaded 32 of the missiles and destroyed 11 with their Shrike anti-radar missiles.


History of UAVs: 1970’s

Ryan SPA 147

In 1970, an RC-121 communications intelligence (COMMINT) monitoring aircraft was shot down over the Yellow Sea, killing the crew on board and spurring the U.S. military to develop new UAVs fitted for COMMINT acquisition and able to fly at high altitude, above the range of enemy missiles. Ryan Aeronautical set to work modifying Firebee target drones so that they could eavesdrop on enemy radio messages and take photographs from above 60,000 feet. The resulting Ryan Special Purpose Aircraft (SPA) 147, which could fly for eight hours carrying a 300-pound camera was the first long-haul UAV equipped for COMMINT at high altitude.


History of UAVs: 1980’s

During the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the Israeli Air Force, an aggressive UAV developer, pioneered several important new UAVs, versions of which were integrated into the UAV fleets of many other countries, including the U.S.

Scout (Israel)

In 1978, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) built Scout, a piston-engined aircraft with a 13-foot wingspan made of fiberglass. It’s low radar signature, coupled with it’s small size, made it almost impossible to shoot down. It could transmit real-time, 360-degree television camera surveillance data. In 1982, during the Bekaa Valley conflict, Israel used a fleet of Scouts to search out Syrian missile sites and entice the Syrians to activate their radars. These allowed Israeli bombers to destroy all but two Syrian missile sites (17 in all), allowing them to fly unchallenged in the skies.


History of UAVs: 1980’s

Pioneer (Israel)

Israel built the Pioneer UAV in the late 1980s and the U.S. military acquired more than 20 of them, which became the first small, inexpensive UAVs in the modern American military forces. The rocket-boosted Pioneer takes off from a makeshift runway or carrier flight decks. The Pioneer can operate up to 5 hours with a 75-pound (34 kg) payload. It flies with a gimbaled EO/IR sensor, relaying analog video in real time via a C-band line-of-sight (LOS) data link. Since 1991, Pioneer has flown recon missions during the Persian Gulf, Somalia (UNOSOM II), Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq conflicts. During the Gulf War, they flew a total of 533 sorties.


History of UAVs: 1990’s >

UAVs command a permanent and critical position in high-tech military arsenals today, from the U.S. and Europe to Asia and the Middle East. They also play peaceful roles as monitors of our Earth's environment.

Firebird 2001 (Israel)

Another Israeli UAV innovation, the remotely controlled Firebird 2001 was prototyped to deliver real-time, highly accurate information on a wildfire's size, speed, perimeter, and movement using a slew of technologies, including global positioning system technology, geographic information systems mapping, and forward-looking infrared cameras. Wildfire scientists in the U.S. tested the Firebird, invented in 1996, for use in fire management, but no further developments took place.


History of UAVs: 1990’s >

Pathfinder was a solar-powered, ultra-lightweight aircraft developed by AeroVironment Corporation. Pathfinder was powered by eight electric motors —which were first powered by batteries. It had a wing span of 98.4 feet (30.0 m). In late 1993, solar cells were added, eventually covering the entire upper surface of the wing. Pathfinder flew at an airspeed of only 15 mph (24 km/h) to 25 mph (40 km/h). Pitch control is maintained by the use of tiny ailerons on the trailing edge of the wing, turns and yaw control are accomplished by slowing down or speeding up the motors on the outboard sections of the wing. In 1997, Pathfinder reached an altitude of 67,350 feet, the highest altitude ever reached by a solar aircraft.



History of UAVs: 1990’s >

The Pathfinder was modified in 1998 into the longer-winged Pathfinder-Plus configuration. It included a new wing section which increased the overall wingspan from 98.4 feet (30.0 m) to 121 feet (36.9 m). The new center section was topped by more-efficient silicon solar cells which could convert almost 19 percent of the solar energy they receive to useful electrical energy to power the craft's motors, avionics and communication systems. Maximum potential power was boosted to about 12,500 watts on Pathfinder-Plus. The number of electric motors was increased to eight. The Pathfinder-Plus flights in 1998 validated power, aerodynamic, and systems technologies. On August 6, 1998, Pathfinder-Plus raised the national altitude record to 80,201 feet (24,445 m) for solar-powered and propeller-driven aircraft.



History of UAVs: 1990’s >

Helios (US)

The Helios incorporated a fuel cell energy storage system to provide power for flying through the night, making it capable of continuous flight at 50,000 - 70,000 feet for months at a time. Helios was expected to be widely deployed as broadband communications platforms, providing cost-effective complements to satellite and terrestrial communication systems. On June 26, 2003, the Helios Prototype broke up and fell into the Pacific Ocean west of the Hawaiian Island Kauai during a systems checkout flight. The program was subsequently ended by NASA.


History of UAVs: 1990’s >


The Lockheed Martin / Boeing DarkStar was one of three high-tech, stealth surveillance UAVs underway in the late-1990s as part of a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) effort to produce new UAVs by 2015. DarkStar had a length of 15 ft., and a wingspan of 60 ft. On March 29, 1996, DarkStar made its first flight, reaching an altitude of 5,000 feet and successfully executed a fully automated flight from takeoff to landing using GPS. It operated at ranges greater than 500 nautical miles and was able to stay on station for more than eight hours at altitudes greater than 45,000 feet. In 1999 the Defense Department terminated the DarkStar program.

General Characteristics

Primary function: Reconnaissance

Powerplant: One Williams-Rolls FJ44-1A with 1,900 lbf (8.5 kN) thrust

Empty Weight: 4,360 lb (1,980 kg)

Max LoadedWeight: 8,500 lb (3,860 kg)


Length: 15 ft (4.6 m)

Height: 3 ft 6 in (1.1 m)

Wingspan: 69 ft (21.3 m)


Cruising speed: 288 mph (464 km/h)

Range: 575 mi (925 km)

Service ceiling: 45,000 ft (13,500 m)


History of UAVs: 1990’s >

Rheinmetall KZO

KZO (Kleinflugzeug für Zielortung, German for small aircraft for target acquisition) is stealth UAV built by Rheinmetall Defense Electronics of Germany. A KZO system consists of 10 UAVs and 2 ground units, consisting of one control station, one radio, one launch, one maintenance vehicle with a refuelling facility for the UAVs and one recovery vehicle. The UAV is launched with a booster rocket directly out of its container. Landing is done with a parachute. The KZO's main objective is to locate mobile threats and provide target locations for artillery. Two electronic warfare variants have also been developed as the Mücke ("mosquito") and the Fledermaus ("bat").

General Characteristics:

Wingspan: 3.42m

Length: 2.28m

Body diameter: 0.36m

Engine: Noise-reduced two-stroke engine driving 2 blade propeller

Cruise speed: 220km/h

Endurance: 4 hours

Sensor: stabilized forward looking infrared

Digital data recorder for 10 minutes of video data

Real-time datalink

Navigation: inertial, location via datalink, additionally GPS (not needed for operation)

Stealth technology: Reduced visual, acoustic, radar and infrared signature


History of UAVs: 1990’s >

Aerosonde Mark

The Aerosonde is a small UAV designed to collect weather data over oceans and remote areas. The Aerosonde was developed by Insitu, and is now manufactured by Aerosonde Ltd. The Aerosonde carries onboard a small computer, meteorological instruments, and a GPS receiver for navigation.On August 21, 1998, an Aerosonde completed a 2,031 mile (3,270 km) flight across the Atlantic Ocean at an altitude of 5,500 ft (1,680 meters), and was the first UAV crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and also the smallest aircraft ever to cross the Atlantic. Aerosondes have also been the first unmanned aircraft to penetrate tropical cyclones, during missions in 2001 and 2005.

General characteristics:

Length: 5 ft 8 in (1.7 m)

Wingspan: 9 ft 8 in (2.9 m)

Height: 2 ft 0 in (0.60 m)

Wing area: 6.1 ft² (0.57 m²)

Weight (Loaded): 28.9 lb (13.1 kg)

Powerplant: Modified Enya R120 model aircraft engine, 1.74 hp (1280 W)


Maximum speed: 90 mph (140 km/h)

Range: 1,875 miles (3,000 km)

Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,500 m)

Wing loading: 5 lb/ft² (23 kg/m²)

Power/Mass: 0.06 hp/lb (98 W/kg)


History of UAVs: 1990’s >

RQ-1 Predator (USA)

The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is described as a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system. It can serve in a reconnaissance role and fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The aircraft, in use since 1995, has seen combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, and Yemen.

The Predator system was initially designated the RQ-1 Predator. The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance and the "Q" refers to an unmanned aircraft system. The "1" describes it as being the first of a series of aircraft systems built for unmanned reconnaissance. It can fly 400 nautical miles to a target, loiter overhead for 14 hours, then return to its base.

General characteristics

Length: 27 ft (8.22 m)

Wingspan: 48.7 ft (14.8 m)

Height: 6.9 ft (2.1 m)

Wing area: 123.3 sq ft (11.5 m²)

Empty weight: 1,130 lb (512 kg)

Loaded weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)

Max takeoff weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)

Powerplant: 1× Rotax 914F turbocharged,

four-cylinder engine, 115 hp (86 kW)


Maximum speed: 135 mph (117 knots, 217 km/h)

Cruise speed: 81–103 mph (70–90 knots, 130–165 km/h)

Range: >2,000 nm (3,704 km, 2,302 miles)

Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,620 m)


History of UAVs: 1990’s >

RQ-4 Global Hawk

The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is a surveillance aircraft,

Similar in role to the manned Lockheed TR-1 spy plane. The Global Hawk can collect high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensor imagery at long range with long loiter times over target areas. The Global Hawk costs about $35 million USD (actual per-aircraft costs; with development costs also included, the per-aircraft cost rises to $123.2 million USD each). The GH has a 116-foot wingspan, can sustain flight operations for up to 32 hours, allowing it to fly autonomously, collect and transmit surveillance data at 65,000 feet, and then return to its base without refueling.

General characteristics

Length: 44 ft 5 in (13.54 m)

Wingspan: 116 ft 2 in (35.41 m)

Height: 15 ft 2 in (4.62 m)

Empty weight: 8,490 lb (3,851 kg)

Gross weight: 22,900 lb (10,387 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Allison Rolls-Royce

AE3007H turbofan engine, 7,050 lbf (31.4 kN) thrust


Cruise speed: 404 mph (351 kn; 650 km/h)

Endurance: 36 hours

Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (19,812 m)


History of UAVs: The Future

The surveillance UAVs of tomorrow may evolve into MAVs, or micro aerial vehicles, small spies so tiny they can take off and land in the palm of their operators' hands. A number of nations are developing MAVs for surveillance use in the future.

Black Widow (USA)

Since 1986, AeroVironment Corporation (with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has been developing micro UAVs for use in military surveillance, law enforcement, and civilian rescue efforts. The Black Widow UAV, which has a six-inch wingspan and weighs only two ounces, is AeroVironment's award-winning MAV.


History of UAVs: VTOL (Rotorcraft)

Most VTOL UAV history dates to the early 1960’s with a single exception of the creation of the Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig in the 1950’s (although the TMR was originally planned for manned operations). Some VTOL UAS development took place in the early / mid 1960’s. Work progressed slowly through the 1970’s and 1980’s, but major VTOL UAV developments occurred in the 1990’s and through the present.

VTOL UAV Development History


History of UAV VTOL: 1950’s

Vertical Takeoff And Landing (VTOL) describes an aircraft which can take off and land completely vertically. VTOL aircraft are useful for the reasons, including: No Runway Requirements, Increased Portability, More Useful For Aerial Photography and Videography.

Rolls-Royce TMR

The Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig (TMR) UAV was developed in the 1950s. The TMR used two Nene turbojet engines mounted back-to-back horizontally within a steel framework, raised upon four legs. The TMR had no lifting surfaces (wings, blades, etc.) and was nicknamed the Flying Bedstead. The purpose of the rig was to test turbojet engines and to develop control techniques. Two Thrust Measuring Rigs were built and the first free flight by the TMR was made on 3 August 1954. The second Thrust Measuring Rig was destroyed in 1957 but the first is at the Science Museum in London, England.

General characteristics:

Length: 28 ft (8.53 m)

Wingspan: 14 ft (4.26 m)

Height: 12 ft 8 in (excluding pylon) (3.86 m)

Empty weight: 6,000 lb (2,720 kg)

Loaded weight: 7,500 lb (3,400 kg)

Powerplant: 2× Rolls-Royce Nene, 4,050 lbf (18 kN) each


Thrust/weight: 1.08:1


History of UAV VTOL: 1960’s

Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter)

A drone helicopter built by Gyrodyne Company for use as a long-range anti-submarine weapon on ships that would otherwise be too small to operate a full-sized helicopter. The DSN-1 was powered by a Porsche YO-95-6 72 hp piston engine and carried one Mark 43 homing torpedo. The DSN-3/QH-50C (last model in production, in which a 255 hp (190 kW) Boeing T50-4 turboshaft engine replaced the piston engine and the payload was increased to two Mk 44 torpedoes. Three hundred and seventy eight QH-50C were produced before production ended in January 1966. Several are still used today for various land-based roles.

General characteristics

Length: 12 ft 11 in (3.94 m)

Rotor diameter: 20 ft 0 in (6.10 m)

Height: 9 ft 8½ in (2.96 m)

Empty weight: 1,154 lb (524 kg)

Max takeoff weight: 2,285 lb (1,036 kg)

Powerplant: 1× Boeing T50-BO-8A turboshaft, 300 hp (224 kW)


Maximum speed: 80 knots (92 mph, 148 km/h)

Cruise speed: 50 knots (58 mph, 93 km/h)

Range: 71 nmi (82 mi, 132 km)

Service ceiling: 16,400 ft (5,000 m)

Rate of climb: 1,880 ft/min (9.6 m/s)


History of UAV VTOL: 1970’s

The 1970’s saw several VTOL UAV developments, such as the Bombardier (Canadair) CL-227 Sentinel, but received little consideration due to their cost and technical immaturity. Fixed wing UAVs were considered more mature platforms, and had demonstrated their utility in combat.

CL-227 Sentinel

The CL-227 Sentinel was developed by Bombardier's Canadair Defense Systems Division (early version called the Peanut; 1978) The CL-227 is a remotely controlled helicopter with a turbine engine driving a pair of co-axial counter-rotating rotors. A successful naval development was completed to demonstration stage in 1992. The Sentinel is roughly 6 feet tall, standing on four castered legs. Support vehicles include a flatbed pickup transporter with winch and launch platform, and a control / communication van, each with utility trailers.

General Characteristics:

System: Co-axial rotorWeight: 190 kgPayload: 45 kgSpeed: 80 kts.Endurance: 3 hours


History of UAV VTOL: 1970’s

Westland “Wideeye”

Built in 1977 as a remotely piloted observation helicopter, powered by two Weslake 2-stroke 2-cylinder piston engines. The "Wideye" was a larger more sophisticated follow up to the "Wisp" with coaxial rotors of 2.30m diameter, allowing a gross weight of 125kg

Westland WG.25 "Mote"

Built in 1975 as an experimental remotely piloted helicopter, and powered by two Veeco two-stroke piston engines. The WG.25 remotely piloted helicopter was a private venture project, designed to prove the basic concept for a radio controlled, fully controllable helicopter that could be used for surveillance purposes. In 1974 work began on a flying prototype which was first flown in June 1975. Having completed its trials program the WG25 was stored until joining a museum collection in 1990.


History of UAV VTOL: 1990’s

The 1990’s saw an explosion of VTOL UAV developments, such as those shown below and numerous others. The needs came from the military, law enforcement and, surprisingly, the movie industry; all required stable image collection, restricted area operations (VTOL) and hovering capabilities.

Kamov Ka-137

Bell “Eagle Eye”

Nanjing WZ-1

BombardierCL-327 Guardian

SAIC/ATI Vigilante

Sikorsky Cypher


History of UAV VTOL: 2000 >

Ducted Fan VTOL UAVs

Honeywell MAV ACTD

Aurora GoldenEye

Sikorsky Cypher


Urban Aeronautics AirMule

Mamba UAV


History of UAV VTOL: 2000 >


Built by New Zealand-based commercial helicopter manufacturer TGR Helicorp, the Snark is constructed mainly of Carbon Fiber and Kevlar, the Snark is light and fast (280 km/h), quiet (special rotor blades make it extremely quiet ), virtually invisible to radar or infrared detetection (it recycles its exhaust gases and emits little heat) and can carry a payload of 680kg, offering firepower and surveillance equipment. The Snark is the first UAV that runs on diesel fuel. The Snark can stay airborne for 24 hours at a time, offering an unprecedented loiter time for a machine of this capability.

General Characteristics:

Length: 28 feet

Height:14 feet

Width: 6 feet

Empty weight: 1060 lb (480kg)

Gross weight: 2500 lb (1133 kg)

Payload: 1500lb (680 kg)

Endurance: 24 hours


History of UAV VTOL: 2000 >

SikorskyMariner / Cypher

Sikorsky’s MARINER UAV was developed in conjunction with General Dynamics Information Systems. No technical specifications of the MARINER have been released. The "Cypher" employs a ducted fan consisting of two four-blade coaxial rotors. A conventional wing provides lift in forward flight, reducing the load on the lift fan. The Cypher II/Dragon Warrior is capable of carrying a 45 lb payload to a station 100 nm away and loitering for 2 hours. The all-composite aircraft has a maximum gross weight of 100kg and a top speed of 230km/h. The wings may be removed for applications such as military operations in urban terrain (MOUT), like its predecessor, the "Cypher I".


History of UAV VTOL: 2000 >

Dragonflyer X6

The Draganflyer X6 is a remotely operated, unmanned, miniature helicopter designed to carry wireless video cameras and still cameras. The Draganflyer X6 helicopter uses a unique 6-rotor design refined from an original concept that has been under development since early 2006. The Draganflyer X6 accepts multiple interchangeable video camera and still camera modules including: a 10.1 MP digital still camera with 720p video recording, 1080p HD video camera, low light video camera, thermal imaging video camera, micro color video camera.

  • Dimensions:
    • Width: 91cm (36in)
    • Length: 85cm (33in)
    • Top Diameter: 99cm (39in)
    • Height: 25.4cm (10in)
  • Weight & Payload:
  • Helicopter Weight: 1,000g (35oz)
  • Payload Capability: 500g (18oz)
  • Maximum Gross Take-Off Weight: 1,500g (53oz)
  • Flight Characteristics:
  • Max Climb Rate: 7m/s (23ft/s)
  • Max Descent Rate: 4m/s (13ft/s)
  • Max Turn Rate: 90°/second
  • Approx Maximum Speed: 50km/h (30mph)
  • Maximum Altitude ASL: 2,438m (8,000ft)
  • Maximum Flight Time: Approx. 20 min (without payload)

History of UAV VTOL: The Future

American DynamicsAD-150

The AD-150 utilizes two wing-tip mounted High Torque Aerial Lift (HTAL) lift and propulsion systems to provide the thrust needed to sustain and transition between hover and forward flight. The two HTAL systems are driven by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PW200 Turboshaft engine. The AD-150 will be ready to enter production in 2010 and could become operational by 2015

General characteristics

Length: 14 ft 6 in (4.42 m)

Wingspan: 17 ft 6 in (5.34 m)

Height: 4 ft 9 in (1.49 m)

Gross weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PW200, 750 hp (560 kW)


Maximum speed: 345 mph (556 km/h)

Endurance: 4 hours

Service ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,100 m)
















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