ROBOTS TAKE TO THE AIR
by Tom Carroll
Back in December ’05, I wrote
about robots that go to war. These
were about robots that are on the
ground, remotely operated from a
distance. In my research, I have found
so many acronyms that are tied to
these types of robotic vehicles.
ROV for ‘remotely-operated vehicle’
which is often tied to the underwater variety, though it has been used to describe
any remotely-operated land, sea, or even
aerial vehicle. AGV for ‘automated guided
vehicle’ which often describes the automated vehicles in factories that follow lines
in the floor or other command techniques.
UAV usually means ‘unmanned
aerial vehicle’ though some have said it
means ‘unmanned autonomous vehicle’
for any type of autonomous vehicle with
no human aboard (which seems redundant to me). Some have even called
them RPVs or ‘remotely piloted vehicles.’
Typical of the military, some of the
branches have now changed the term,
UAV to ‘unmanned aircraft system,’ or
UAS, but most still refer to these
types of flying robots as UAVs. It has
been the autonomous and teleoperated aerial UAVs that have made the
news as of late. Unmanned robot
planes are actually not new; they’ve
been around for over 90 years.
rocket guidance systems, audiometry, a
draftsman’s curve, and even all types
of race cars. One of his earliest projects
during World War I was called ‘Aerial
Target,’ really a misnomer as it was
actually a guided bomb.
The British wanted the Germans to
think that they were working on a target
drone to test anti-aircraft gunnery accuracy. The Royal Flying Corps wanted the
robot plane in a hurry and Low had his
pick of all types of craftsmen to do the job.
In March 1917, the first plane was
launched from the back of a truck by a
compressed air catapult. He was successful in controlling the plane before it finally
crashed due to engine failure. The ‘UAV’
was later upgraded with another first — an
electrically-driven gyro navigation system.
After the war, the project was
scrapped — typical of many ingenuous
military projects when funding drops
off. A similar early autonomous aircraft
— the Kettering Aerial Bomb — also
called the ‘Bug,’ is shown in Figure 1.
This is an American entry into the early
WWI development of the cruise missile
that would mature many years later
into very effective weapon systems.
weapon that struck fear into the hearts of
British citizens during the darkest days of
the war. The Fieseler FZG- 76 with its 900
kg warhead delivered much havoc to terrified Londoners between June 1944 and
the end of March 1945 (see Figure 2).
This unmanned robot “buzz
bomb” — so named because of the
pulse jet propulsion system — was
sophisticated, even by today’s standards. Unlike the ramjet that required
higher speeds to operate, the V-1’s
pulse jet used a set of venetian blind
type shutters that opened and closed
45 times a second to allow a series
of small explosions to power the
unmanned plane along. The pulse
engine was up to full thrust before the
plane was launched. These rapid open-
FIGURE 1. Kettering Bug at
The German V-1
Fiesler FZG- 76
FIGURE 2. V-1 on Display in Greencastle, IN.
Dr. Archibald Low, who was born
in London, England and grew up in
London and Australia, was much like
Nikola Tesla — absolutely great at everything technical. He had inventions for
television fed through ‘phone’ wires,
Though the German V-1
was one of the most devastating
weapons of World War II, some
of their designs were based on
the work of Low and others.
However, it is this vengeance
SERVO 01.2008 79