History Series: The First Mass Produced AUV

Around the same time as the development of the Curtiss Fledgling, Walter Righter designed the OQ-2, another small radio-controlled aircraft. The OQ-2 was powered by a two-cylinder two-cycle piston engine, which drove two contra-rotating propellers. The drone was launched by a catapult and recovery was either by returning to the runway or by parachute.


Reginald Denny, actor and aviator, purchased the OQ-2 design and engine. He then redesigned the vehicle and demonstrated it to the US armed forces in the 1940s. The US Army and Navy initially purchased hundreds of drones from Denny and his organization with Nelson Paul Whittier, the Radioplane Company. By the end of World War II, Radioplane had produced 9,400 drones at their plant in Los Angeles, making this vehicle the first mass produced UAV. Similar to its predecessors, the vehicle was primarily used for anti-aircraft target practice, but the Radioplane Company kept improving its drones, eventually giving the vehicle the capability to lay military communication wire, a task a drone could complete faster and more safely than a soldier.


 

Sarah Baig

Marketing Coordinator

April 11, 2022