The Ten Most Bizarre Drones Ever Built

If you send one of your flying robots to kill goats in Hungary, at least send an interesting one. Any of these ten will do.


10.) Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk

The Ten Most Bizarre Drones Ever Built

It's a flying Xenomorph dolphin mutant alright! Reader vorspiel explains:

Most people think of drones as relatively small in size... maybe as big as a very tall person. Then there is this whale of a thing from Northrop Grunman. It's huge. Not to mention that it has that typical "drone" appearance that is far different than a standard plane/jet.

It also holds the world record for absolute distance flown by a UAV at 8,214.44 miles.

Suggested By: vorspiel, Photo Credit: AP Images


9.) Alliant RQ-6 Outrider

The Ten Most Bizarre Drones Ever Built

The story of the Outrider is the same as the story of many post-Cold War US Army developments. Our own The Transporter tells its orphaned history:

This funky looking biplane was slated to be the US Army's Tactical Unmanned Aerial System for brigade-level units. Like all military procurement programs in the '90s, it was behind schedule and over budget, and like all military procurement programs in the '90s, it was decided to turn the program into a joint program with the Navy to save money.

The Navy liked the idea, but then set about changing everything about the Outrider, including changing its airframe from a fiberglass construction to an all aluminum construction. This sent the Outrider back to the drawing board. Both the Navy and the Army kept changing their minds about what they wanted and kept adding on requirements through the development of the program. This forced Alliant to keep going back to the drawing board and inflated the program costs into the Billions (with a capitol "B").

Eventually, the Navy sobered up and took a look at the bar tab, fumbled through its wallet, found that it didn't have enough cash, and bailed, leaving the Army to foot the bill. This left the Army with a UAV that cost more than a manned aircraft but could do less, even with all the unwanted features that the Navy tacked on.

The Army ultimately scrapped the entire program, eventually choosing the simpler but readily available RQ-7 Shadow UAV from AAI. The only evidence of the money that was spent are a few billion-dollar pole ornaments that decorate the Army's UAV school at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona.

Suggested By: The Transporter, Photo Credit: Alliant Techsystems via UAV Global


8.) Saab Skeldar V-200

The Ten Most Bizarre Drones Ever Built

It's a Saab helicopter drone that's capable of electronic warfare. Your counterargument is invalid.

Suggested By: Nicce12, Photo Credit: Getty Images


7.) Operation Aphrodite's B17s

The Ten Most Bizarre Drones Ever Built

This one killed a certain potential presidential candidate called LT Joseph P. Kennedy. Out of service B17s and PB4Ys stripped and filled with explosives were flown by radio control into bomb-resistant fortifications such as German U-boat pens and V-weapon sites.

It didn't work.

Suggested By: willkinton274, Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


6.) Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH

The Ten Most Bizarre Drones Ever Built

Screw you sneaky submarines! Reader willkinton247 has the story:

The Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH anti-submarine drone was pretty weird, but really successful. It was made to take down subs, but also flew supply missions and performed reconnaissance. It was also nuclear capable, and could deploy nuclear torpedoes and depth charges 22 miles away from it's ship. They were used at White Sands up until 2006 for calibration purposes.

Suggested By: willkinton247, Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


5.) Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle

The Ten Most Bizarre Drones Ever Built

This very special blimp can be operated both manually or by radio control, and while the US Army has cancelled the project, there are plans on the British side to make it airworthy again. Only one prototype has been built so far.

Suggested By: Doctornine, Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


4.) MMIST SnowGoose Cargo UAV

Reader magman007 has some personal experience with this Canadian beast!

By far the oddest drone I have encountered in my 5 years in the industry is the Snowgoose. It's a genius design actually, has a ton of pay load, and is designed to deliver that payload quickly and easily, but boy does it look goofy.

This thing actually got me into the industry, as we had a technical partnership with them while I was in college at Kansas State, it got my feet wet to say the least.

Suggested By: magman007


3.) Oblique Wing Research Aircraft

The Ten Most Bizarre Drones Ever Built

Swinging wings! JayhawkJake explains how this unmanned ...thing was a bit of a pioneer:

Now, you may be asking yourself 'what the hell is that thing?!' I have the answer!

In transonic/supersonic flight engineers are constantly fighting tradeoffs. The characteristics that make a good supersonic plane make a terrible subsonic plane and vice versa. One solution is a swinging wing like the F-14 Tomcat or F-111 Aardvark, but this isn't the most optimal solution. A better solution, aerodynamically, is something called an Oblique Swing Wing. The wing is straight at subsonic flight and then swings forward obliquely to reduce wave drag by improving the slenderness of the aircraft, i. e. the ratio of wing span to length.

NASA built this remote aircraft to make sure that swinging the wing wouldn't introduce some crazy unmanageable flight characteristics, which it did.

They then built one of my favorite aircraft, the piloted AD-1 which further proved this as a viable concept.

Suggested By: JayhawkJake, Photo Credit: NASA


2.) Lockheed D-21

The Ten Most Bizarre Drones Ever Built

It only flew 4 times before the project was cancelled in 1971 because of this incident.

DennyCrane explains what you're looking at:

Imagine an SR-71 modified to launch a smaller, unmanned, single engine version of the SR-71.

That would be the M-21 and D-21, respectively. Basically just the SR-71's monster engine with wings and a camera.

Suggested By: DennyCrane, Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


1.) BioSwimmer

ROBOT TUNA!!! JayBe_III clarifies:

It's made to inspect the undersides of ships hulls and underwater structures while mimicking the motion of a tuna to keep it's position.

Brilliant but bizarre as hell!

Suggested By: JayBe_III

Welcome back to Answers of the Day - our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Fonejacker/Channel 4