Flight Dynamics Laboratory BQM-106 "Teleplane"


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25 June 2009
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USAF's Flight Dynamics Laboratory FDL-33 electric RPV
an experimental aircraft developed to study flight control concept

The XBQM-106 (or XBQM-26) mini-RPV was a tail-stabilized, pusher-propellor aircraft that was designed and developed within the Flight Dynamics Laboratory (FDL) at Wright Patterson AFB. It was normally powered by a Herbrandson DH220, 18 HP, 2-cycle engine. The vehicle was widely used in research programs dealing with a variety of mini-RPV missions, most of which were oriented towards defense suppression and harassment. A limited number of these vehicles were manufactured "in house" at FDL, and the program included investigations into low-cost methods of fabrication. It is unclear if there was ever any intent to adopt the XBQM-26 for operational service, since the program had a strongly experimental flavor, with the different configurations used to evaluate a wide range of possibilities for tactical UAV operations. At any rate, the program was terminated on Oct. 1, 1982 with no prospects for the type to be produced or fielded for other military applications.

Nominal performance figures for this vehicle are as follows:
Gross take-off weight: 225 lb (102 kg)
S.L. optimum cruise speed: 61 knot (113 km/h)
S.L. max dash speed: 87.5 knot (162 km/h)
S.L. climb rate: 900 ft/min* (274 m/mmn)
Service ceiling: 10,000 ft* (3049 in)
Payload weight: 54 lb (24.5 kg)
Fuel capacity: 56 lb (25.5 kg)

*at mid weight of 180 lb

and Wikipedia.

Beginning in 1975, the USAF's Flight Dynamics Laboratory (FDL) designed and built the FDL-33 series of small experimental RPVs under the designation XBQM-106, sometimes called Teleplane. The Teleplane vehicles tested several wing, nose, tail and engine configurations, and evaluated RPV equipment and technologies like a fluidic autopilot, seeker/warhead options for expendable strike missions, light-weight composite construction and low-observables (stealth) technology.

The XBQM-106 vehicles were relatively small drones powered by a low-power piston engine driving a pusher propeller. The first vehicles had a McCulloch MC-101 engine, but most of the later ones used a Herbrandson Dyad 220 two-cylinder two-stroke engine. The fuselage was of pod-and-boom design, and the whole airframe was of non-metallic construction. The Teleplane was started from a pneumatic catapult launcher and recovered by a normal skid landing. It had a radio-command guidance system for full control from the ground, but could also fly autonomously on autopilot. The downlink transmitted telemetry data and video imagery from a nose-mounted TV camera.

At least 23 XBQM-106 vehicles in 13 different variants were built, including at least two designed by Teledyne Ryan. In January 1984, new designations were allocated to then current configurations of the FDL-33 vehicle. The XBQM-106A was built by Digital Design Inc., and had a cylindrical tail boom, a high wing of slightly reduced span and a T-tail. The XBQM-106A also had a parachute system which could be used as an alternate recovery method. The XBQM-106B was an FDL-modified XBQM-106A, which lacked the latter's parachute landing option and had a tailboom with an elliptical section. It was used for pilot proficiency training. The XBQM-106C was an experimental modification of the XBQM-106B with a new tail, which had the horizontal stabilizer relocated to the mid of the vertical fin. The whole XBQM-106 test and development program ended in early 1986.

Above text straight from Andreas Parsch's "Designation Systems" website:

List of variants (from various sources):

  • Air Force FDL XBQM-106 Teleplane (XBQM-26) (1x McCulloch MC-101) (1975)
  • Air Force FDL XBQM-106 Teleplane (1х Herbrandson Dyad 220)
  • Air Force FDL XMQM-106 Teleplane (Experimental tactical RPV, no details)
  • Teledyne Ryan XBQM-106A Teleplane (redesign, no details)
  • Digital Design Incorporated XBQM-106A Teleplane (Modified XBQM-106 with 1х Herbrandson Dyad 220)
  • Air Force FDL XBQM-106B Teleplane (Modified XBQM-106A with 1х Herbrandson Dyad 220)
  • Air Force FDL XBQM-106C Teleplane (Modified XBQM-106B with 1х Herbrandson Dyad 220)
  • Teledyne Ryan Model 328 (development of Teleplane, no details)

Another source gives this interesting extra bit of information:

A samarium cobalt motor/controller was developed by Sundstrand Corporation for the Air Force XBQM-106 RPV.

Source and full description of that program: High Altitude Solar Power Platform (NASA Technical Memorandum)

Finally, the BGM-106 is also described in various sources as a "Self Repairing Flight Control Systems Tactical UAV"...


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This picture was published in November 2009 along with an article that explained how the USAF had been performing laser tests on several UAVs:


Out at China Lake in May, a joint team sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab that included the engineers from the Naval Air Warfare Center fired a 2 Kilowatt class laser at a series of five UAVs, tracking them and shooting them down “at long ranges and using relatively low laser power,” according to a release from the laser maker Boeing. The so-called Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments beam rides on a trailer and is tethered to a fire control radar that helps it zero in on the drone and track the intruder before zapping it with laser precision.

One observer remarked that "the planform bears a passing resemblance at this resolution to one that I used to fly called the XBQM-106A". What do the other forumites think? It does seem indeed that the Teleplane's career may well have taken it right into the 21st century!

Source: Zapping Drones from a Truck
NASA's photo archives contain some rare stuff... including these two shots of the XBQM-106!


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Stargazer2006 said:
NASA's photo archives contain some rare stuff... including these two shots of the XBQM-106!
These particular photos are of a full scale model of the XBQM-106 that was tested in 1978 in the full-scale tunnel at Langley. The purpose of the testing was to evaluate the effects of various side force generator configurations (upper and lower wing mounted, dorsal mounted, etc.) and to obtain aerodynamic data to derive stability derivatives for an experimental digital autopilot. This particular model was built using the same tooling as the flying articles, but was built substantially more ruggedly with fixed control surfaces and modified to pass a sting through the tail boom to a balance mounted in the mid-fuselage. The purpose of the side force generators was to enhance yaw-pitch steering in a terminal dive mode against ground based targets. Yaw-pitch steering was shown to be significantly more effective than roll-pitch steering in the last few seconds of a terminal dive and produced a reduced CEP. The camouflage-painted XBQM-106 that is sometimes seen in photos is that same model repainted for display in a technical symposium.
Welcome aboard, boilermaker66, and thanks for clarifying the status of that wind-tunnel model. The Teleplane is very little-known, and information about it is scarce, so it's nice to have the insight of someone knowledgeable on the subject!
Stargazer2006 said:
Welcome aboard, boilermaker66, and thanks for clarifying the status of that wind-tunnel model. The Teleplane is very little-known, and information about it is scarce, so it's nice to have the insight of someone knowledgeable on the subject!
Teleplane was a generic term that referred to the USAF Flight Dynamics Laboratory RPV project as a whole (FDL-33.) XBQM-106 was just one of the vehicles developed during the Teleplane project (and the only one that had an official DoD aircraft designation.) Quite a few other configurations were built and tested, but the XBQM-106 was the one that was most amenable as a testbed for a variety of seekers and sensors, autopilots, control actuators, powerplants, aerodynamic features, and so forth. It had decent performance, was aerodynamically stable, had a significant useful load capability, and a wide allowable C.G. range. It also was relatively simple to manufacture and was used to evaluate a number of low-cost production techniques, principally the use of expanded polyurethane foam in various densities molded into both structural and non-structural components. In the case of the structural components (wings, control surfaces, etc.), the urethane components were mixed during injection and expanded into molds that had had pre-installed composite skin surfaces, chiefly S-glass fiberglass with selected graphite reinforcement. This experiment had mixed results, since when foam density was low enough to make a component of acceptable weight it invariably had voids and other defects. Several non-structural components were successfully molded and used throughout the project, however.

At the time of the Teleplane project, the US government viewed the USSR as the principal potential enemy, and the principal theater in the event of conventional war was assumed to be Central Europe. There was a vision of hoards of Soviet tanks, with accompanying radar-directed anti-aircraft missiles and guns, streaming through the Fulda Gap into West Germany and beyond. The USAF was interesting in the use of expendable drones to suppress fire control radars and potentially to defeat tanks. Therefore, the Teleplane project was charged with evaluating low-cost manufacturing techniques to build potentially hundreds or even thousands of autonomous expendable "harassment" drones, and to evaluate a variety of associated radar and armor detecting seekers.

The XBQM-106 was the means to test these concepts (mostly successfully.) However, the use of drones was always viewed as a threat to "cockpit seats" within the USAF.
Hmmmm polyurethane injected wing cores - we tried them and also found them to be disaster. Lay-up the wing skins, cure them, close the mould, inject the foam, wait the required period of time, open the moulds and....disaster! The foam just goes on expanding in a random fashion. Let this be a warning to the next business 'inventing' a low cost manufacturing method ;)
Welcome aboard, boilermaker66, and thanks for clarifying the status of that wind-tunnel model. The Teleplane is very little-known, and information about it is scarce, so it's nice to have the insight of someone knowledgeable on the subject!
From 1982 to 1986 the 6415th Test Squadron based at Hill AFB, Utah supported and flew the XBQM-106 on only one project I can remember which was a test in conjunction with MIT Lincoln Labs. The test was for a phased array seeker head and guidance system which we completed in 1982 on the rangenear Eglin AFB, Fla. All airframes and components were removed from 6514th inventory by ~1986. Radartech

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