The drones now snooping over Afghanistan have a longer history than you might think. In 1916, a military scientist conceived of an “aerial torpedo” designed to be loaded with explosives and steered into the deadly Zeppelins on their bombing raids over southern England. In a lecture to the Royal Aeronautical Society on Monday evening Michael Draper, author of Sitting Ducks & Peeping Toms, will lift the wraps off the secret century of unmanned air vehicles, starting with the prototype referred to by the innocuous initials “AT”.
The fledgling air ministry’s Professor Archibald Low, an eccentric scientist straight out of central casting, had never designed anything remotely aeronautical, but put together a monoplane made of wood and tin, using the lower wing from a biplane and, scrounged from another aircraft, an oversized propeller driven by a 35 horse-power engine. There was one radio control for up and down, and another for left and right.
This isn’t a statement on right or wrong, just an interesting bit of back story.