When I first saw this article from a 1946 edition of Radio
News, I did a double-take on the author's name, thinking
it was written by long-time model aviation author and magazine
editor William 'Bill" Winter. It was actually done by a fellow
named Winters, not Winter. An enthusiastic radio control (R/C)
evangelist in his day, Bill Winter wrote many pieces for electronics
magazines such as
Popular Electronics. As I have noted in the past, hobbyists
in the electronics realm, as well as in the fields of aircraft
and rocket design, contribute mightily to the state of the art.
Such is also the case in many other arts and sciences. Here
we have a report of some of the earliest radio controlled flying
'drones,' as we call them today. They are a far cry from the
palm-size, gyro-stabilized examples available from commercial
Radio Operated Airplane
By S. R. Winters
Radio-controlled planes, the dream of many prewar experimenters,
have stepped out of the novice field.
Mission completed, the radio-operated plane
gets a comfortable ride to earth by parachute. The pilot on
the ground releases parachute from fuselage via radio pulses.
automatically killing the plane's motor.
Taking off, zooming through the skies at a pace of 125 miles
an hour, going into dives and banks, and then landing by parachute-performing
all these maneuvers solely by means of radio, is a pilotless
airplane of the American Air Forces Center at Orlando, Florida.
Without a person on board, not only is this unique flying craft
guided by ultra-high-frequency radio waves, but its 8-horsepower
engine is killed automatically when the plane's landing parachute
is caused to spring out of a trapdoor.
As a forecast of pilotless civilian airplanes, when radio
waves will start, steer, and land flying craft, this innovation
may also be an immediate forerunner of radio-powered planes.
In its present phase of being controlled by radio, this miniature
plane, with a 12-foot wing span and resembling an overgrown
model airplane, utilizes an ultra-high-frequency carrier, which
is modulated by five different audio frequencies. Of this number,
four frequencies are selected by a stick in the remote-control
box on the ground and are employed in guiding the plane, which
was used during the war as a flying target for antiaircraft
gunners. The fifth radio frequency holds the parachute in its
true position for an ultimate landing of the plane. This fifth
frequency is automatically in operating position while the other
four frequencies are being used. When the pilotless flight is
terminated, a switch at the control box on the ground cuts off
the audio-frequency tones and thus releases the trapdoor of
the parachute, also stopping the engine.
At the remote-control joy-stick of a radio-controlled
plane is an antiaircraft officer. By varying the controls. he
can bank, loop, and dive the plane to make tracking tough for
ack-ack batteries firing live ammunition.
The launching catapult of this dwarfed airplane functions
on the principle of a slingshot. It is composed of a metal-tubed
length with top rails, and a group of helical springs. As the
miniature airplane departs from the firing end of the catapult,
the assembly is arrested by a snubber shock cable and the target
plane continues its flight into the air. The 8-horsepower engine
generates a staccato noise which is said to blanket the semi-tropical,
jungle-like countryside of that vicinity of Florida.
The seven-man ground crew of Lieutenant Eugene M. Applebaugh
bide their time as the lieutenant, beside the mobile radio-controlled
apparatus on a three-quarter-ton Army truck, maneuvers by radio
the catapulted craft into a steep climb and short bank. Only
a stone's throwaway are teams of anti-aircraft gunners practicing
a simulated defense (even in peacetime) against the pseudo-marauder
in the threat of this radio-guided airplane target.
The helmeted crews, with quick precision, zero in on the flying
target and go through a rapid routine of load, fire, and reload
as the control men continue to line up the elusive target in
their guns' sights. The radio-controlled plane, at a pace of
125 miles an hour, dives and banks in evasive endeavors to frustrate
the antiaircraft gunners. This shuffling or maneuvering of the
target demonstrates one of the significant benefits of this
new type of radio-guided target over the outmoded former system
whereby planes towed targets and had to keep on a constant course
with their target's dragging sleeves. Once the practice run
over the guns is completed, Lieutenant Applebaugh flips another
switch on his remote radio-controlled apparatus, a trapdoor
on the topside of the small airplane pops open, and the motor
begins to sputter and die. From the trapdoor, there emerges
a slender mass of silk - a parachute - and in its embrace. the
model airplane begins its slow but comfortable descent to earth.
A catapult is used to project the plane into
flight. An officer is shown making preliminary adjustments on
plane in preparation for flight.
The 12-foot wingspread has a counterpart in an 8-foot fuselage
of steel tubing covered with canvas. Within this body of the
plane are contained the engine, generator, battery, radio receiving
apparatus, and the landing parachute under the topside hatch.
Late models have displaced the antiquated landing gear with
reinforced shock-absorbing keel. The flying target can be set
up and launched in a jiffy, with as little open space as 100
Pellets of atomic energy, with radio in the pilot's seat,
may be the source of power for civilian airplanes of the future.
Or, the electronic airplane (a descriptive term first used by
this writer) may take off, be guided, landed, and even powered
by electronic waves. Already an automobile is being powered
by electronic energy. The radio-operated airplane, however,
in its present stage, may be seen at many civilian flying fields
first as a novelty to focus attention on the Air Age; then,
in later developments, as a flying machine without a human pilot
aboard but guided from the ground by radio and carrying passengers
on sightseeing tours in the vicinity of our large cities or
around such sightseeing objectives as Grand Canyon.
Posted May 9, 2015