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Small, simple, inexpensive drones for tactical reconnaissance and surveillance

Stargazer2006

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Some very interesting programs (some built, some not) found in an appendix of a 1972 report done by Battelle for ARPA and entitled: A SURVEY AND TECHNICAL SYSTEMS ASSESSMENT OF DRONE AIRCRAFT FOR TACTICAL RECONNAISSANCE AND SURVEILLANCE (the whole report is extremely interesting).

Here is a list of the designs mentioned or depicted therein:

  • Republic Bikini
  • Gyrodyne Junior Dash (plus one unnamed design)
  • DelMar Woods/Sanctuary
  • Ryan Flexbee (found in other documents as Flex-Bee)
  • Aerojet General Tattle-Tale
  • Bendix Boomerang
  • Beechcraft Peeping Tom
  • Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory SRASS

SMALL, SIMPLE, INEXPENSIVE DRONE SYSTEMS

There are a number of very small, simple, and inexpensive drone systems either in existence or proposed. In general these do not appear to be appropriate for R&tS missions. However, there may be certain limited missions that these vehicles could undertake and for this reason they are covered here.

The Bikini drone is probably the most rudimentary vehicle presented in the Handbook. In appearance and performance it resembles a large model airplane. Preprototype versions of the vehicle were based on construction techniques and componetry found in the radio-control model, hobby industry. The operational vehicle, however, was all metal construction, ruggedized and considerably engineered. It was operational with the USMC, but is now out of use and has been judged to be obsolete relative to the modern requirement for high-endurance (USMC may require as much as 4 hours) vehicles. The Bikini and similar low-payload vehicles also cannot accommodate the equipment and instrumentation associated with such requirements as night time observation, MTI's, realtime surveillance, and high position accuracy. Experience suggests that these requirements demand a vehicle sophistication, and undoubtedly a system cost, considerably beyond the Bikini-type of approach. (Bikini, for example, could carry only a camera and film for a few frames. ) The typical time required for recovery and development of the film was approximately one-half hour, and the Binini system cost approximately $4,000. (...)

Gyrodyne, USA, has proposed the development of a drone helicopter along the lines of the Junior Dash. Del Mar Engineering has proposed a system (apparently a junior Whirlymite) known unofficially as the Woods/Sanctuary. This system is not included in the Handbook. This is not meant to imply that these systems will be unjustifiable or unsuitable for certain unique missions. However, they will be vehicles of limited sophistication and relatively low payload, and therefore will have capabilities that are too limited for the extensive spectrum of modern combat surveillance requirements. (...)

Figures E- 1 through E-5 show a few of the "typical" rudimentary vehicle concepts that have been proposed for the short-range surveillance mission. None of these is now considered to be a viable concept. All of the systems shown here were reported in the 1967 ECOM survey of drones, although most of these concepts were part of circa 1964 proposals, some under an ECOM small drone study. It is believed that most of the combat surveillance vehicles being proposed or developed today represent a much better appreciation of the requirements of this mission class on the part of potential users and developers. However, going to the other extreme, ambitious requirements have been postulated in the past few years that are beyond the capability of any identifiable condidate vehicle in the picture today.

Source: A SURVEY AND TECHNICAL SYSTEMS ASSESSMENT OF DRONE AIRCRAFT FOR TACTICAL RECONNAISSANCE AND SURVEILLANCE


A second document emanating from the USMC's Landing Force Development Center in Quantico and dated 1963 describes in detail the evaluation of the Bikini and Flex-Bee systems.

Lightweight Battlefield Surveillance Drones

A comparative evaluation of the Republic "BIKINI" and Ryan "FLEX-BEE" drone systems was conductcd to determine whether the Marinee Cuops should pursue further development in this field and, if so, to determine which of the two drone configurations will provide the better sensor platform.

The Republic "BIKINI" drone system is not acceptable for Marine Corps use in its present configuration, and is limited to visual control to a maximum range of 1800 meters and maximum payload of 8-10 pounds. Known major deficiencies include a lack of in-flight stability, poor obstacle clearance capability, poor rate of climb, high sensitivity to radio
commands, and an unacceptable rate of decent during parachute recovery. While unknown, maintenance and training requirements may be excessive.

The Ryan "FLEX-BEE" drone system is not acceptable for Marine Corps use in its present configuration, and is limited to visual control to a maximum range of 1400 meters. Known major deficiencies include an unsatisfactory launcher and an unsatisfactory recovery system. While unknown, maintenance requirements may be excessive.

In view of the fact that "BIKINI" is in a much more advanced state of development than "FLEX-BEE", and it is felt that the major deficiencies of "BIKINI" are easier to correct than are those of "FLEX-BEE", it is recommended that further dev~elopment be undertaken with Republic Aircraft Corporation for the correction of deficiencies on existing "BIKINI" drone systems and subsequent Service Test. No further development action is recommended with Ryan Aeronautical Company's "FLEX-BEE" drone system.

Source: COMPARATIVE EVALUATION OF REPUBLIC 'BIKINI' DRONE SYSTEM - RYAN 'FLEX BEE' DRONE SYSTEM
 

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Stargazer2006

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More pics of the Ryan Flex-Bee, which lost against the Republic Bikini.
 

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Stargazer2006

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The story of the Bikini drone can be found here:

Bikini Drones

Unwilling to scrap all of the research and development with unmanned vehicles, the Marine Corps continued to pursue this technology with a new approach under the code name Bikini. While the RPH concept was tested and evaluated for the feasibility of a utility vehicle, the Bikini concept was evaluated for the feasibility of providing organic near real-time reconnaissance to the battalion commander in the field. The Bikini program started in 1959 and was under research and development for seven years before it was tested for its feasibility. According to the R&D specifications, this system would only require a two-man team — one to operate the vehicle and the other one to maintain it. In true Marine Corps fashion and according to doctrine, the unmanned drone and its team of two Marines would be attached to the infantry battalions and perform reconnaissance missions in support of the battlefield commander.

The configuration of the drone system (the drone and all of its support requirements) was designed to fit in one jeep and one trailer. To be more efficient in the deployment and employment of the system, the trailer would double as a launcher as well as a cargo carrier. The battalion’s flamethrower compressor would recharge the pneumatic launcher, and the air vehicle would be recovered by the operator flying the drone by cutting the engine and activating the parachute release. The drone carried a 70mm camera whose film had to be developed, like any other camera, by either the division reconnaissance battalion or by the team using a newly developed waterless film processor. An important
development from the Bikini drone was the Concept of Employment that came of this project, which is remarkably similar to the standing Marine Corps Concept of Employment for the Close Range UAV published by MCCDC, in 1992.

After testing, the Marine Corps purchased twenty Bikini drones, and establish their residence for further testing and evaluation with the Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, NC. After only one year of testing with this unit, and over 300 flights later, the results were not positive. Of the original twenty air vehicles, only six remained. From the fourteen vehicles damaged, eleven were lost due to operator error, with the majority of the errors occurring during landing and takeoffs. Despite the proven potential for UAVs in the battlefield, Bikini was a risk that Marine Corps planners at the time were not willing to take. The system was not suitable for the time, and it would have to be shelved until further development.

Source: AN ANALYSIS OF MANPOWER REQUIREMENTS FOR THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS TIERS II & III
UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS FAMILY OF SYSTEMS PROGRAM



And of course Andreas Parsch did a page on it... ;)

http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app4/bikini.html
 

robunos

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more stuff on Ryan Fex-bee here...

http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,8142.0/highlight,floppy.html


cheers,
Robin.
 

Stargazer2006

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robunos said:
more stuff on Ryan Fex-bee here...

http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,8142.0/highlight,floppy.html


cheers,
Robin.

Thanks for the link... I'd forgotten to add it!
 

robunos

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or even Flex-Bee, ............................... :-[


cheers,
Robin.
 
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