A Brief History of Unmanned Aircraft
From bomb-bearing balloons to the Global Hawk.
- By Ed Darack
- AirSpaceMag.com, May 18, 2011
NASM Image SI A-42444-C
Perhaps the best-known unmanned vehicle of World War II was the German Fieseler Fi 103, also called the V-1 “Buzz Bomb” (“V-1” stood for Vergeltungswaffe Eins, or “vengeance weapon one”). Meant to kill British civilians—per Adolf Hitler’s order for a weapon to be used against “non-military targets”—the V-1 was powered by a pulsejet engine that made a distinctive buzz. It carried a 2,000-pound warhead approximately 150 miles, and had a sophisticated guidance system consisting of gyroscopes, barometers, and an anemometer, which was used to calculate distance flown. Once over the target, the guidance system put the V-1 into a steep dive. The Germans launched roughly 20,000 V-1s at Allied targets, primarily in London and Antwerp, Belgium. The Buzz Bombs proved devastating, killing more than 10,000 civilians and injuring nearly 28,000.